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N25.7bn fraud: Former MD of Bank PHB, Francis Atuche, sentenced to six years in prison

A Lagos State High Court has convicted former managing director of the defunct Bank PHB Plc Francis Atuche and the bank’s former chief financial officer Ugo Anyanwu.

The judge found them guilty of stealing and conspiracy to steal, but discharged and acquitted Atuche’s wife Elizabeth.

The trio are accused of stealing N25.7 billion belonging to the bank now known as Keystone Bank.

Justice Lateefa Okunnu sentenced Atuche and Anyanwu to six years in prison each.

Reading her judgment that lasted over 10 hours, Okunnu upheld the arguments of EFCC prosecutor Kemi Pinheiro that the N25.7 billion was stolen, not loaned, as argued by Atuche.

“The 1st defendant confirmed the bank’s ownership of the money when he said the bank in lending money makes profit.

“I am persuaded by the statement of Pat Utomi that ‘The bank still has control over money that’s left in its coffers, no matter who uses it’.

“Helen Eriyo, who is the account officer of Petosan, being unaware of the loans granted, lends credit to the testimony of Mr Ololo that he was not aware of the loan.

“The alter egos and true directing mind of the companies knew nothing about the loans. The loans indeed were a hoax,” the judge said.

The trio was arraigned in 2011 before Okunnu and they pleaded not guilty.

Atuche is also standing trial over N125 billion alleged fraud before a Federal High Court in Lagos.

He was arraigned in 2014 alongside former managing director of Spring Bank Plc Charles Ojo on an amended 45 counts before Justice Saliu Seidu, before the judge was transferred out of the Lagos division.

The case was subsequently transferred to Justice Ayokunle Faji and the defendants re-arraigned in 2017.

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