Justice Lateef Okunnu of a Lagos High Court sitting in the Ikeja area has convicted Francis Atuche, a former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB on charges of stealing the sum of N25.7bn belonging to the bank while he served as helmsman of the bank.
Channels TV reports that in a judgment that lasted over 10 hours on Wednesday June 16, Justice Okunnu convicted Atuche alongside a former Chief Financial Officer of the bank, Ugo Anyanwu on 21 of the 27-count amended charge of conspiracy to commit a felony and stealing brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The presiding judge found the two guilty on grounds that the EFCC had successfully proved its case against the convicts beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge rejected the 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. She also held that the convicts corruptly took advantage of their positions to confer on themselves undue financial benefits without regard to the health of the bank.
She cleared Atuche’s wife on the charge of conspiracy and stealing brought on her by the anti-graft agency. The judge averred that the EFCC failed to link her to the crime 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.
The EFCC had dragged the former bankers to court over allegations that between November 2007 and April 2008, they stole about N25.7bn belonging to the bank. The anti-graft agency had also claimed that of the total N25.7bn, they stole about N14.7bn by fraudulently 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.
The EFCC also alleged that another N11bn stolen by the defendants was 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.