Judge convicts ex PHB CEO, Atuche of fraud, acquits wife

Judge convicts ex PHB CEO, Atuche of fraud, acquits wife

An Ikeja Division of the Lagos State High Court has convicted the former managing director of the defunct Bank PHB Plc, Francis Atuche, and the bank’s

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

The judge found the bankers guilty of stealing and conspiracy to steal.

However, Atuche’s wife, Elizabeth, was, discharged and acquitted, PremiumTimes is reporting.

The former bank chief, his wife, who both own popular Hubmart chain of stores alongside Anyanwu are accused of stealing N25.7 billion belonging to the bank.

Francis Atuche was then sentenced to over 6 years in prison.

In a judgment that lasted over 10 hours, Justice Lateefat Okunnu convicted Atuche alongside a former Chief Financial Officer of the bank, Ugo Anyanwu.

The two were convicted on at least 6 of a 27-count amended charge of conspiracy to commit a felony and stealing brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

While Atuche who was found guilty on counts 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 23 of the charge would serve a 6-year term for each count,  Anyanwu will serve a 4-year jail term for counts 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 22 and 24 of the amended charge.

They are to serve their jail term consecutively. This sentence is coming after a trial that lasted over 12 years.

In delivering her sentence, Justice Okunnu held that the EFCC successfully proved its case against the convicts beyond a reasonable doubt.

The judge rejected claims by the defendants suggesting that they were merely professionally negligent.

She specifically held that Atuche and Anyanwu abused their powers, ignored established rules and regulations thereby putting the bank and depositors’ funds in danger.

The court also came to the conclusion that the convicts corruptly took advantage of their positions to confer on themselves undue financial benefits without regard to the health of the bank.

“The convict stole from the bank and depositors and because of their action, taxpayers money was used to bail out the bank”.

Justice Okunnu held that she had considered the plea of the convicts, but there must be consequences for wrongdoing, adding that sentences are not just for punishment but also for deterrence.

She also ruled that the defendant should make restitution of the amount stolen from the bank. They are to pay back the sum of N25.7billion to the Federal government to replace the funds stolen from the public to bail out the bank.

According to the Judge, they are to serve their jail terms at the Kirikiri maximum correctional facility.


Elizabeth Atuche

The trio were arraigned in 2011 before Justice Lateefa Okunnu of the Ikeja Division of the Lagos State High Court.

Atuche is also standing trial over N125 billion alleged fraud before the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court.

He was arraigned in 2014, alongside Charles Ojo, a former managing director of Spring Bank Plc, 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.