Finance

Court affirms conviction of Francis Atuche, former Managing Director of defunct Bank PHB


The Court of Appeal in Lagos has affirmed the conviction of Francis Atuche, former Managing Director of defunct Bank PHB Plc convicted over N25.7 billion he stole from the bank while he headed the bank.

The appellate court affirmed Mr Atuche’s conviction on Thursday Alongside that of Ugo Anyawu, his co-convict who was his Chief Financial officer at the time.

While Mr Atuche was sentenced to six years in prison and Mr Anyawu to four years imprisonment. The duo were convicted on 6 of the amended 27-count charge of conspiracy to commit a felony and stealing preferred against them by the EFCC.

Backstory

  • In 2011, The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission arraigned Mr Atuche, his wife Elizabeth and Mr Anyanwu, for conspiracy and stealing to the tune of N25. 7 billion.
  • They pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them which led to their full trial.
  • After 12 years of trial, on June 16, 2021, Justice Lateefa Okunnu of the Lagos State High Court sentenced Mr Atuche alongside Mr Anyanwu for fraud committed in the bank.
  • His wife, Elizabeth was discharged and acquitted of the charges proffered against her.
  • She was discharged on the grounds that the Commission failed to link her to the crime as suspicion could not take the place of fact.
  • The judge held that the prosecution could not prove that she was aware of the source of the funds she received from her husband.
  • Delivering judgment, the judge held that the EFCC proved beyond reasonable doubt that the convicts (Atuche and Anyawu) committed the fraud.
  • The judge held that “The first defendant is hereby sentenced to six years imprisonment on counts one to 11, 14 to 20, 23 and 24,”
  • “The third defendant is hereby sentenced to four years imprisonment on counts one to 11, 14 to 20, 23 and 24.”
  • The judge held that the sentences are to run concurrently.

Not satisfied with the judgment of the lower court, Mr Atuche approached the appellate court seeking to overturn its decision.

Delivering judgment, the appellate court on Thursday affirmed the decision of the lower court.



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