Tuesday, July 23, 2024

N25.7 billion Fraud: Supreme Court affirms conviction of ex-Bank PHB MD

Justice Moore Adumei said the ex-Bank PHB MD failed to convince the Supreme Court that the trial and Appeal Court’s findings were not credible.

• June 28, 2024
Francis Atuche
Former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB, Francis Atuche [Photo credit: Qed.com]

The Supreme Court has upheld the conviction of Francis Atuche, the former managing director of the defunct Bank PHB Plc.

Reading the unanimous judgement on Friday morning, Justice Moore Adumei said Mr Atuche failed to convince the Supreme Court that the trial and Appeal Court’s findings were not credible.

The Supreme Court also held that the appellant was unable to provide a reason for altering the judgements of both lower courts.

In 2011, the counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Kemi Pinheiro, arraigned Mr Atuche, his wife, Elizabeth and a former chief financial officer of the bank, Ugo Anyanwu, before Justice Lateefat Okunnu of the Lagos High Court on a 27-count amended charge of N25.7 billion fraud.

Justice Okunnu, in her judgement on June 16, 2021, convicted Messrs Atuche and Anyanwu on 21 of the 27-count amended conspiracy charge to commit felony and stealing. She held that the anti-graft agency proved its case against the convicts beyond reasonable doubt.

The judge, however, freed Mr Atuche’s wife over the EFCC’s failure to link her to the crime, insisting that suspicion, no matter how strong, cannot take the place of fact. The judge held that there was no proof Mrs Atuche was aware of the source of the funds she received into her account from her husband and that she had no power to make any decision to influence the transaction.

The convicts also appealed the judgement at the Appeal Court, which affirmed their conviction on June 23, 2022, but clarified that Mr Atuche’s jail term, as handed down by the lower court, is six years concurrently, not 12 years.

While upholding Mr Atuche’s wife’s discharge and acquittal, the judges reduced Mr Anyanwu’s sentence from 10 to eight years.

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