Francis Atuche, a former managing director of the now-defunct Bank PHB Plc, was found guilty of fraud totaling N25.7 billion by the Court of Appeal, which met in Lagos yesterday.
In addition, the court upheld Ugo Anyanwu’s conviction for participating in Atuche’s crime and serving as his co-defendant.
Justice Lateefat Okunnu’s decision from the Lagos State High Court, Ikeja, was partially upheld by a three-judge panel of the court, which included Justices Sadiq Umar, Adebukola Banjoko, and Kayode Bada.
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The defendants appealed their conviction after receiving their sentence on June 16, 2021, and they asked the appellate court to reverse the lower court’s judgement.
The court continued its adjournment until yesterday to reach a decision after hearing the appeal in April.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCCarguments )’s were supported by the three-person panel, which unanimously dismissed the appeal in a decision that was condensed and read by Justice Umar.
According to Justice Umar, “all but one of the issues were resolved in the respondents’ favour.”
The arguments of Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), who brought the case on behalf of the EFCC with the approval of Attorney General of the Federation Abubakar Malami, were upheld by Justice Okunnu when the pair were sentenced last year (SAN).
In 2011, the defendants were charged by the EFCC with the N25.7 billion fraud and appeared in court before Justice Okunnu.
But after about three years, Atuche and the other defendants went before the Court of Appeal to challenge the lower court’s jurisdiction over their trial.
Despite ordering Justice Okunnu to leave the trial in a ruling issued in September 2016, the court left the charges against the defendants in place.
When the appellate court’s decision stood, the EFCC petitioned the Supreme Court to reverse it and order a trial.
The apex court instructed that the case be sent back to Justice Okunnu for further proceedings after hearing from the EFCC’s attorney.
In order to contest the former banker’s claim that the money in question was stolen rather than loaned, Atuche and his wife went back to Justice Okunnu. Pinheiro was with them.
The money belonged to the bank, so the judge agreed with Pinheiro that it could be stolen.
“Neither the first defendant nor the third defendant refuted the prosecution’s evidence that the loans were used to buy shares. “They argued more that the funds provided as a loan could be used for any purpose, Justice Okunnu said.
Atuche and Anyanwu were then given sentences, while Atuche’s wife was declared innocent.
The assets and money worth N19,178,253,050 that Atuche is alleged to have kept in 24 banks were also ordered to be frozen by the Ikeja High Court on September 2, 2021.
In April, Atuche’s request for a pardon was denied by the Council of State.
Even though his name was one of the 162 that the Council was given permission to present for clemency, it did not appear on the final list of the 159 criminals who received state pardons.