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Bank PHB ex-boss bags 6yrs jail term over N25bn fraud

By News Desk

A Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja has convicted the former Managing Director of defunct Bank PHB, Francis Atuche, has been sentenced to six years imprisonment while the former Chief Financial Officer of the bank, Ugo Anyanwu, was handed four years jail term for their involvement in the disappearance of N25.7 billion belonging to the bank.

The court, meanwhile, cleared Atuche’s wife, Elizabeth, on the charge of conspiracy and stealing brought against her by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) with the two convicted bank officials.

In a judgment that lasted over 10 hours on Wednesday, Justice Lateefat Okunnu convicted Atuche and Anyanwu on 21 of the 27-count amended charge of conspiracy to commit a felony and stealing brought against them by the anti-graft agency.

Justice Okunnu, while delivering her judgement, held that the EFCC successfully proved its case against the convicts beyond a reasonable doubt, just as she rejected claims of the defendants that they were merely professionally negligent.

She specifically held that Atuche and Anyanwu abused their powers, ignored established rules and regulations thereby putting the bank and depositors’ funds in danger.

The court also came to the conclusion that the convicts corruptly took advantage of their positions to confer on themselves undue financial benefits without regard to the health of the bank.

On the former bank boss wife, Okunnu stressed that EFCC could not prove beyond reasonable doubt that Elizabeth committed the crime with her husband and insisted that suspicion no matter how strong can not take the place of fact.

The judge held that it was not proven that she was aware of the source of the funds she received into her account from her husband and she had no powers to take any decision to influence the transaction.

Earlier, EFCC had alleged that between November 2007 and April 2008, the accused persons stole about N25.7bn belonging to the defunct bank and that about N14.7bn of the fund was through fraudulently means describing it as a loan to some companies and subsequently converted the said sum to personal use.

The Commission had listed the companies as Future View Securities, Extra Oil Limited, Resolution Trust and Investment Limited, and Tradjek Nigeria Ltd and alleged that another N11bn stolen by the defendants were used to purchase about 984,375,000 units of Bank PHB shares for themselves.

According to the commission, the sum used for purchasing the shares was described as a loan to some companies including, Guesstrade Services, Sentron Trading, Montrax Investico, Claremount Management Ltd., Trenton Trade, and others.

In proof of its case against the accused persons, the EFCC called 12 witnesses who gave oral evidence. It also subpoenaed 6 others to present some documents which were admitted as exhibits by the court.

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