How ex-MD, financial officer defrauded Bank PHB N25.7bn – judge

By AdvocateNews on 17/06/2021

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Francis Atuche and Ugo Anyanwu
Francis Atuche and Ugo Anyanwu

On Wednesday evening, a high court in Ikejasentenced Francis Atuche, former managing director of the now defunct Bank PHB (now Keystone Bank), to six years in prison for defrauding the bank of N25.7 billion.

In a 12-hour judgment, Judge Lateefa Okunnu also sentenced Ugo Anyanwu, a former chief financial officer (CFO) of the bank to four years in prison.

The judge ruled that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the convicts had committed the fraud.

Okunnu, however, fired Atuche’s wife Elizabeth, who was on trial alongside the duo.

Elizabeth was acquitted of the charges of conspiracy and theft brought against her.

Atuche and the others had been tried for the past 10 years.

The Nigerian News Agency (NAN) reports that the judgment began at 9:12 a.m. and lasted until 9:21 pm.

“The first accused (Atuche) and the third accused (Anyanwu) are found guilty of counts 1 to 11, 14 to 20, 23 and 24 of the counts contained in the information, and are found guilty of conspiracy and theft.

“On counts 12, 13, 21, 22 and 26, I declare the first to the third defendant not guilty because the prosecution has failed to prove its case beyond a 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 robbing the bank.

“By robbing the bank, they robbed innocent customers of the bank.

“I hereby make an order of restitution against the first and third defendants to repay the amounts set out in counts one through 11, 14 and 24.

“The sums are to be paid to the agencies concerned which have recovered the funds on behalf of the bank.

“The first accused is hereby sentenced to six years’ imprisonment on counts 1-11, 14-20, 23 and 24,” Okunnu said.

“The third defendant is sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for counts 1 to 11, 14 to 20, 23 and 24,” she concluded.

However, the judge concluded that the sentences would be carried out simultaneously.

During the judgment, Okunnu said Atuche and Anyanwu defrauded PHB billion-naira bank by using well-known stock brokers to transfer money owned by the bank under the guise of loans and stocks.

“It was a well planned and well executed program, but the bubble burst when the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) stepped in,” she said.

The judge ruled that none of the Atuche from Anyanwu was convincing as a “witness to the truth”.

“The first defendant (Atuche) created a diversion and was evasive on the witness stand; sometimes confrontational and rude.

“The third defendant (Anyanwu) was also combative and rude during cross-examination,” she said.

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

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

Dismissing the charge of theft against Elizabeth relating to two companies affiliated with her who fraudulently received two billion naira of shares in PHB Bank, Okunnu found that there had been no act of fraud or fraud. overt or hidden dishonesty linked to Elizabeth. .

“Nothing has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that she silently or knowingly approved the perpetuation of the fraud; it was rather the first accused (Atuche).

“For this reason, the prosecution has failed to prove its case of theft against the second defendant (Elizabeth),” she said.

On the charge of conspiracy against Elizabeth, Okunnu felt that there was no evidence that linked her to the shares purchased for the two affiliates here.

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

Elizabeth, who recited prayers with a rosary during the proceedings, breathed a sigh of relief upon hearing the verdict.

NAN reports that in 2011, the EFCC team led by Mr. Kemi Pinheiro (SAN) indicted the trio with 27 counts of conspiracy and theft of N25.7 billion belonging to the PHB bank. via phantom loans and stocks.

Atuche and his wife were charged with fraudulent conversion of money characterized as a bank loan.

The EFCC said the couple embezzled funds belonging to the bank by buying shares for shell companies linked to them.

Anyanwu was accused of using his position as the bank’s chief financial officer to help Atuche commit the crimes.

The anti-corruption agency said the trio stole more than N25.7 billion belonging to the defunct Bank PHB (now KeyStone Bank) between November 2007 and April 2008, when Atuche was the managing director.

Following a stress test conducted by the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2009, the PHB Bank was classified in difficulty and Atuche was removed from his post as managing director.

He was arrested along with his wife and Anyanwu for fraud.

A total of 31 witnesses testified during the trial for the prosecution and the defense. (NOPE)

(NAN)

Posted 17/06/2021 06:25:20 AM

 

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