Former Bank PHB boss, Atuche, paid N45m tithe with depositors funds-EFCC

The EFCC accuses Atuche of donating N45million of depositor's fund to two churches

Francis Atuche gave two churches in Delta State depositors money to the sum of N45 million.

The former managing director of Bank PHB, Francis Atuche, used depositors’ funds to pay forty five million naira tithe to two catholic churches in Delta State, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, alleged Wednesday.

The EFCC counsel, Kemi Pinheiro, made the accusation while leading a key witness, Solomon Ogunsola, a former staff of PHB Mortgages Limited, in evidence, before Lateefat Okunnu, Judge of a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja.

Mr. Atuche allegedly paid the money from a PHB Mortgage Limited account.

Mr. Pinheiro presented documents in court, some of them e-mails sent as an order to release the sum of thirty-five million naira to St. Monica Catholic church, Ibusa, Delta state, and another sum of ten million naira to another St. Augustine Catholic Church.

Several churches and religious institutions in Nigeria receive money from worshippers without demanding the source of such money.

Mr. Ogunsola told the court that Mr. Atuche sent the money to the two churches in Delta because he (Mr. Atuche) comes from the state.

Mr. Ogunsola also admitted knowing two companies – Claremount Nigeria Limited and Claremount Asset Management. He said that Claremount Nigeria Limited had a call account with Bank PHB and the account was owned by Mr. Atuche.

He explained that the only document on the call account’s file was a reference letter which bears Mr. Atuche’s name.

The document and various transactions carried out by Mr. Atuche in his statements were tendered as exhibits.

The counsel to the EFCC also led another staff of PHB Mortgage Limited, Andy Uzomor, as witness in the criminal charges against Mr. Atuche.

Mr. Uzomor presented a 39- page document before the court as exhibit.

The presentation of the document was opposed by lead defence counsel, Anthony Idigbe, who claimed that some of the documents had to do with a twenty million naira transaction between his law chambers and Mr. Atuche.

Mr. Idigbe urged the court not to admit the particular section as it will deny Mr. Atuche right to a counsel of his choice. According to him, if the document was admitted either himself or his client will have to go into the witness box and this might force his chamber out of the case.

But the prosecution counsel insisted that Mr. Idigbe’s objections lacked substance in law.

According to him, some of the documents pertained to an account that Mr. Atuche had disowned. He referred to Section 38, sub-section 1 of the EFCC Establishment Act which grants the EFCC powers to seek and receive information from anybody.

After listening to both submissions, Justice Okunnu admitted the documents as exhibits and adjourned the case till October 4, 2012.


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