An Ikeja High Court has convicted and sentenced Francis Atuche, a former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB (now Keystone Bank) to six years imprisonment for defrauding the bank of N25.7 billion.
In a 12-hour judgment on Wednesday, Justice Lateefa Okunnu also sentenced Ugo Anyanwu, a former Chief Financial Officer of the bank to four years’ imprisonment.
The judge held that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) proved beyond reasonable doubt that the convicts committed fraud.
The judge stated that it was “a well planned, well executed scheme” by the convicts.
Okunnu, however, discharged Atuche’s wife Elizabeth, who was facing trial alongside the duo.
Atuche and the others had been standing trial in the past 10 years.
“The first defendant (Atuche) and the third defendant (Anyanwu) are found guilty of counts one to 11, 14 to 20, 23 and 24 of the charges contained in the information, and are convicted of conspiracy and stealing.
“On counts 12, 13, 21, 22, and 26, I pronounce the first to third defendants not guilty as the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
“On counts 25 and 27, the second defendant (Elizabeth) is found not guilty,” Okunnu said.
Sentencing the defendants, the judge said that Atuche abused his position of trust by stealing from the bank.
“By stealing from the bank, they stole from innocent customers of the bank.
“I hereby make an order of restitution against the first and third defendants to refund the sums stated in counts one to 11, 14, and 24.
“The sums are to paid to the relevant agencies that recovered the funds on behalf of the bank.
“The first defendant is hereby sentenced to six years imprisonment on counts one to 11, 14 to 20, 23 and 24,” Okunnu said.
“The third defendant is hereby sentenced to four years imprisonment on counts one to 11, 14 to 20, 23 and 24,” she held.
The judge, however, held that the sentences would run concurrently.
During the judgment, Okunnu said Atuche and Anyanwu defrauded Bank PHB of billions of naira using well-recognised stockbrokers to transfer money belonging to the bank under the guise of loans and shares.
“It was a well-planned, well-executed scheme but the bubble burst when the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) intervened,” she said.
The EFCC team led by Mr Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), had in 2011, charged the trio with a 27-count charge of conspiracy and stealing of N25.7billion belonging to Bank PHB via fictitious loans and shares.
Atuche and his spouse were accused of fraudulent conversion of money described as bank loans.
The EFCC said that the couple diverted funds belonging to the bank by buying shares for fictitious companies linked to them.
Anyanwu was accused of using his position as the bank’s CFO to aid Atuche in committing the crimes.
The anti-graft agency said that the trio stole more than N25.7 billion belonging to defunct Bank PHB (now KeyStone Bank) between November 2007 and April 2008, while Atuche was the chief executive officer.