Alleged forgery: Court grants ex-Bank PHB boss, Atuche, bail on self-recognition

Mr. Atuche is accused of forging documents presented before a court.

An Ikeja High Court on Wednesday granted bail to a former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB (now Keystone Bank), Francis Atuche.

Mr. Atuche is standing trial for alleged forgery.

The presiding judge, Adeniyi Onigbanjo, granted the accused bail on self-recognisance.

He was charged to court for allegedly forging the board resolutions of three companies and attempting to smuggle the documents into Keystone Bank headquarters in Victoria Island, Lagos.

The former bank chief was arraigned on March 26, alongside two employees of Central Shared Services Centre of Keystone Bank Ltd.– Joachim Nnosiri and Uguru Onyike.

The accused had all pleaded not guilty to the nine-count charge preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Ruling on Mr. Atuche’s bail application, Justice Onigbanjo held that the defendant had not breached the bail terms granted him earlier by the same court in other charges preferred against him by the EFCC.

“The accused (Atuche) has been granted bail by this court on two separate fraud charges. He was also granted bail by Justice Lateefat Okunnu in another matter before her.

“There is no evidence that he will jump bail or frustrate his trial if the court now decides to exercise its discretionary powers in his favour,” he said.

Moving the application earlier, Mr. Atuche’s counsel, Tayo Oyetibo, told the court that the fresh charge was an “off-shoot” of his client’s matter before Mrs. Okunnu.

Mr. Oyetibo said the board resolutions which were purportedly issued by Futureview Securities Ltd., Tradjeck Ltd. And Extra Oil Ltd. were vital to the EFCC’s case against his client.

He said: “the claims by the Managing Director of the companies, Elizabeth Ebi, that Bank PHB granted the companies a N10.9 billion loan facility without any formal request, was contradicted by these documents.

“Okunnu issued a subpoena on Keystone Bank, the successor of Bank PHB, to produce the original copies of these board resolutions,” he said.

He said the bank had on March 4 informed the court that they were still searching for the documents, while Mrs. Ebi was further cross-examined with the copies possessed by Atuche’s counsel.

According to him, Mrs. Ebi had denied signing the board resolutions, but admitted that the signatures were similar to hers.

“Rather than leave the court to determine if the said documents were forged or not, the EFCC hurriedly arrested the defendant and charged him with forgery,” Mr. Oyetibo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said.

The EFCC counsel, Ben Ubi, however, maintained that the charge before the court was separate from the proceedings before Mrs. Okunnu.

Justice Onigbanjo fixed Thursday, March 28, for ruling on the bail applications by the other two accused and fixed October 4 for trial.


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