Justice Lateefa Okunnu of the Ikeja Division of the Lagos State High Court on Wednesday sentenced Francis Atuche, the former managing director of the defunct Bank PHB, to six years in prison for stealing N27 billion.
The judge also sentenced Ugo Anyanwu, the bank’s former chief financial officer, to six years in prison.
Mr Atuche’s wife, Elizabeth, was, however, discharged and acquitted.
The former bank chief, his wife, and Mr Anyanwu were accused of stealing and conspiring to steal N25.7 billion belonging to the bank.
They were arraigned in 2011 before Mrs Okunnu and they pleaded not guilty.
Reading her judgment that lasted over 10 hours, Mrs Okunnu upheld the arguments of Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), the EFCC prosecutor, that the N25.7 billion was stolen, not loaned,, as argued by Mr Atuche.
She held that the money belonged to the bank and that it was capable of being stolen.
“The 1st defendant confirmed the bank’s ownership of the money when he said the bank in lending money makes profit.
“I am persuaded by the statement of Pat Utomi that ‘The bank still has control over money that’s left in its coffers, no matter who uses it’.
“Helen Eriyo, who is the account officer of Petosan, being unaware of the loans granted, lends credit to the testimony of Mr Ololo that he was not aware of the loan.
“The alter egos and true directing mind of the companies knew nothing about the loans. The loans indeed were a hoax.”
The judge also held that the first and third defendants did not debunk the evidence of the prosecution that the loans were used to purchase shares.
“They rather contended that the monies granted as loan could be used for whatever purposes.”
Mr 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.
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