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Details Of Disgraced Banker, Atuche’s Judgement

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Following a 10-year trial, Francis Atuche, a former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB (now Keystone Bank) and Ugo Anyanwu, a former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the bank, were on Wednesday sentenced to six and four-years imprisonment respectively for defrauding the bank of N25.7billion at an Ikeja High Court.

Atuche’s wife Elizabeth who was facing trial alongside the duo, was found not guilty of the two-counts of conspiracy and stealing linked to her.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Justice Lateefa Okunnu in a record 12-hour judgment (9:12am to 9:21pm), said that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had proved beyond reasonable doubt that the convicts committed sheer acts of fraud.

“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,” Okunnu said.

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

“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.The sentences are to run concurrently,” she said.

During the judgment, Okunnu said Atuche and Anyanwu were able to defraud Bank PHB of billions of Naira using well recognised stock brokers to transfer money belonging to the bank 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.

Okunnu also noted that a large volume of documentary evidence was produced by parties in the case.

She said documents such as bank records, emails and the statements of key actors in the case played a key role in securing the conviction of the defendants.

Dismissing the charge of stealing against Elizabeth regarding two companies affiliated to her which fraudulently received N2billion worth of Bank PHB shares, Okunnu noted that there is no act of fraud or dishonesty overt or covert that has been linked to her.

“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.

On the charge of conspiracy against Elizabeth, Okunnu noted that there was no evidence that linked her to the shares bought for the two companies affiliated with here.

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

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

The EFCC prosecution team led by Mr Kemi Pinheiro (SAN) had in 2011, charged the trio with 27-counts of conspiracy and stealing N25.7billion belonging to Bank PHB via fictitious loans and shares.

Atuche and his spouse were accused of fraudulent conversion of monies described as bank loans. The couple allegedly diverted funds belonging to the bank by buying shares for fictitious companies linked to them.

Anyanwu is accused by the prosecution of using his position as the bank’s CFO to aid Atuche in committing the alleged crimes.

The anti-graft agency had alleged that the trio stole more than N25.7 billion belonging to Bank PHB (now KeyStone Bank) while Atuche was the Chief Executive Officer.

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