Court convicts Bank PHB’s Francis Atuche, Ugo Anyanwu of ₦25.7 bilion theft

A Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja on Wednesday sentenced the former Managing Director of defunct Bank PHB, Francis Atuche and a former Chief Financial Officer of the bank, Ugo Anyanwu to 126 years imprisonment for stealing a N25.7 billion theft belonging to the bank.

The 3rd defendant, Anyanwu was sentenced to eighty-four years of the twenty seven counts amendment with which he was charged with.

The former bank chiefs were convicted by the court on 21 of the 27-count amended charge of conspiracy to commit felony and stealing brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The Presiding judge, Justice Lateefat Okunnu in a judgement that lasted over 12- hours held that the EFCC successful proved its case against the convicts beyond reasonable doubt.

The judge also held that the offences with which the convicts were charge can not be said to be mere professional negligence as claimed by them but criminal in nature.

The court further held that Atuche and Anyanwu abuse their powers, ignored established rules and regulations thereby putting the bank and depositors funds in danger.

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

The court, however, cleared Atuche’s wife of the charge of conspiracy and stealing.

Justices Okunnu held that the EFCC failed to linked her to the crime, stating that suspicion no matter how strong can not take the place of fact.

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

The EFCC had alleged that between November 2007 and April 2008, the accused persons stole about N25.7bn belonging to the bank.

The anti-graft agency has claimed that out of the total N25.7bn allegedly stolen by the accused persons, EFCC claimed that 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 further told the court that the companies included Future View Securities, Extra Oil Limited, Resolution Trust and Investment Limited and Tradjek Nigeria Ltd.

The EFCC also alleged that about N11bn was stolen by the defendants and the said sum was used to purchase about 984,375,000 units of Bank PHB shares for themselves.

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

The anti-graft agency had closed its case against the defendants on March 4, 2013, after calling 12 witnesses, who gave oral evidence and issuing subpoenas to six other persons to present some documents which were admitted as exhibits by the court.

In his allocutus before the court, the convict, Atuche prayed the court temper justice with mercy.

“I asked for mercy from my lord, I am a professional banker and never thought I will end my career this way. Please, I don’t want to go to jail. I have been remorseful in the last 10 years that we have been on this matter. Today will definitely be a turning point in my life,” he said.

The second convict, Anyawu in his plea for mercy asked the judge to show him mercy.

“I am very sorry my lord, I asked that you have mercy on me. I am a father of young kids who are not even teenagers yet.

After listening to the convicts, Justice Okunnu held that she has considered the plea of the convict, there must be consequences for wrongdoing and sentences are not just for punishment but also for deterrent.

“The convict stole from the bank and depositors and because of their action, tax payers money was used to bail out the bank.

She also ruled that the defendant should restitute the amount stolen from the bank. They are to pay back the sum of N25.7billion to the Federal government to replace the fund taken from the public coffers to bail out the bank.

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