N45m paid to churches may not have been authorised by Atuche, witness tells court

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

The witness can’t confirm if Mr. Atuche gave a direct order for the transfers.


A prosecution witness, Bolaji Ogunsola, on Monday retracted his claim that a former Managing Director of Bank PHB, Francis Atuche, had ordered the payment of N45 million to two churches in Delta State.

Mr. Atuche is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), before Justice Lateefat Okunnu of a Lagos High Court in Ikeja.

He was charged to court alongside his wife, Elizabeth, and a former Chief Financial Officer of the bank, Ugo Anyanwu, for allegedly  stealing bank funds. The commission alleged that they stole over N25.7 billion belonging to Bank PHB (now Key Stone Bank) between November 2007 and April 2008.

Mr. Ogunsola, a former managing director of Mortgages PHB Ltd., a subsidiary of Bank PHB, had on September 26 testified that Mr. Atuche ordered the payment of the money to the churches.

Following the testimony, he alleged that his life was being threatened and had refused to appear before the court for his cross-examination, during two consecutive proceedings.

However, on Monday, under cross-examination by Atuche’s counsel, Anthony Idigbe, the witness said he did not say that Mr. Atuche directly approved the payment to the churches.

“I didn’t say the first defendant (Atuche) gave money to the church. What I said was that an instruction was given by Claremont Ltd.

“There was no e-mail that was issued by the first defendant and I did not confirm from him whether it was his instruction,’’ he said.

Mr. Ogunsola said Mr. Atuche did not issue a cheque for money to be paid to Punaka Chambers, owned by Mr. Idigbe.

He explained that there was no sufficient information to confirm that Atuche was the actual owner of the disputed Claremont Ltd. account. The EFCC insists that the company, from whose accounts various suspicious payments were made, belonged to Mr. Atuche.

It is a common thing for public officials and fraudulent private Nigerians ton use fronts for shady deals.

According to the witness, there was no mandate card or form C07 for the account, explaining that Atuche did not give  any direct order for money transactions.

The witness said that they only acted on the presumption that the originator of the mandate took instructions from Mr. Atuche. The matter was adjourned to Dec. 4 for hearing of an application filed by Mr. Idigbe, seeking to recall a prosecution witness, Elizabeth Ebi.



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