N25.7bn fraud: Ex bank PHB Boss, Francis Atuche sentenced to 6 years in prison

Francis Atuche, a former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB has been sentenced to 6 years in prison for stealing the sum of N25.7bn belonging to the bank.

Justice Lateef Okunnu of a Lagos High Court convicted Atuche, alongside a former Chief Financial Officer of the bank, Ugo Anyanwu on charges of conspiracy to commit a felony and stealing brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

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 they took about N14.7bn from the N25.7bn, by fraudulently describing it as a loan to some companies and subsequently converted the said sum to personal use.

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.

Justice Lateef Okunnu while delivering Judgement on Wednesday found the two guilty on grounds that the EFCC had successfully proved its case against the convicts beyond a reasonable doubt.

Okunnu rejected the claims of the defendants that they were merely professionally negligent.

“The defendants abused their powers, ignored established rules and regulations thereby putting the bank and depositors’ funds in danger.

“They corruptly took advantage of their positions to confer on themselves undue financial benefits without regard to the health of the bank,” she said.

The Judge, however, cleared Atuche’s wife on the charge of conspiracy and stealing brought against her by the anti-graft agency.

She averred that the EFCC failed to link her to the crime and insisted that suspicion no matter how strong cannot take the place of fact.

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