Crime

How Bank PHB ex-MD Francis Atuche Stole Customers’ N25 billion, Full Details

How Bank PHB ex-MD Francis Atuche Stole Customers’ N25 billion, Full Details

This is show How Bank PHB ex-MD Francis Atuche Stole Customers’ N25 billion

In a 12-hour judgment, an Ikeja High Court gave a blow-by-blow analysis of how “rude” and “confrontational” Francis Atuche, ex-managing director of the defunct Bank PHB (now Keystone Bank) stole N25 billion of customers’ money.

On Wednesday night, he was convicted and imprisoned for six years.

The judgment began at 9:12 a.m. and lasted until 9:21 p.m.). In the judgment that lasted a half-day, Justice Lateefa Okunnu also sentenced Ugo Anyanwu, the ex-chief financial officer of the bank, to four years’ imprisonment.

The judge held that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission proved that the convicts committed the fraud beyond a reasonable doubt.

Ms Okunnu, however, discharged Mr Atuche’s wife Elizabeth, who was facing trial alongside the duo, acquitting her of acquitted of counts of conspiracy and stealing brought against her.

Mr Atuche and the others had been standing trial in the past 10 years. Thirty-one witnesses testified during the trial for both the prosecution and defence.

How Bank PHB ex-MD

How Bank PHB ex-MD
How Bank PHB ex-MD

“The first defendant (Atuche) and the third defendant (Anyanwu) are found guilty of counts one to 11, 14 to 20, 23 and 24 of the charges contained in the information, and are convicted of conspiracy and stealing.

“On counts 12, 13, 21, 22, and 26, I pronounce the first to third defendants not guilty as the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. On counts 25 and 27, the second defendant (Elizabeth) is found not guilty,” Ms Okunnu ruled.

Sentencing the defendants, the judge said Mr Atuche abused his position of trust by stealing from the bank.

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“By stealing from the bank, they stole from innocent customers of the bank. I hereby make an order of restitution against the first and third defendants to refund the sums stated in counts one to 11, 14, and 24.

“The sums are to paid to the relevant agencies that recovered the funds on behalf of the bank. The first defendant is hereby sentenced to six years’ imprisonment on counts one to 11, 14 to 20, 23, and 24. The third defendant is hereby sentenced to four years’ imprisonment on counts one to 11, 14 to 20, 23 and 24,” she held.

The judge, however, held that the sentences would run concurrently. During the judgment, Ms Okunnu said Mssrs Atuche and Anyanwu defrauded Bank PHB of billions of naira using well-recognised stockbrokers to transfer the bank’s money under the guise of loans and shares.

“It was a well-planned, well-executed scheme, but the bubble burst when the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) intervened,” she said.

The judge held that neither Mr Atuche nor Mr Anyanwu was convincing as “witnesses of truth.”

“The first defendant (Atuche) was diversionary and evasive on the witness stand, sometimes confrontational and rude. The third defendant (Anyanwu) was also combative and rude under cross-examination,” she said.

Ms Okunnu noted that parties in the case produced a large volume of documentary evidence. She said that documents such as bank records, e-mails, and statements of key actors in the case played a key role in securing the conviction of the defendants.

Dismissing the charge of stealing against Ms Atuche regarding two companies affiliated to her which were said to have fraudulently received N2 billion worth of Bank PHB shares, Ms Okunnu held that there was no act of fraud or dishonesty overt or covert linked to her.

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“Nothing was proved beyond reasonable doubt that she silently or knowingly endorsed the perpetuation of fraud; rather, it was the first defendant (Atuche).

“On account of this, the prosecution failed to prove its case of stealing against the second defendant (Elizabeth),” she said.

How Bank PHB ex-MD

On the charge of conspiracy against Mrs Atuche, the judge held no evidence linked her to the shares bought for the two companies affiliated with her.

“I find that the case of conspiracy does not hold,” the judge said.

Mrs Atuche, who was reciting prayers with a rosary during proceedings, heaved a sigh of relief upon hearing the verdict.

The EFCC team, led by Kemi Pinheiro, had in 2011, charged the trio with a 27-count charge of conspiracy and stealing of N25.7 billion belonging to Bank PHB via fictitious loans and shares.

The EFCC accused Mr Atuche and his spouse of fraudulent conversion of money described as bank loans. The EFCC said that the couple diverted funds from the bank by buying shares for fictitious companies linked to them.

How Bank PHB ex-MD

The anti-corruption agency accused Mr Anyanwu of using his position as the bank’s CFO to aid Atuche in committing the crimes. The EFCC added that the trio stole more than N25.7 billion of the defunct Bank PHB (now KeyStone Bank) between November 2007 and April 2008, while Mr Atuche was the chief executive officer.

Following a stress test conducted by the CBN in 2009, Bank PHB was classified as distressed, and Mr Atuche removed as the MD and later arraigned alongside his wife and Mr Anyanwu for fraud.

How Bank PHB ex-MD

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