Atuche, Ojo charged anew with N125b fraud

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Francis Atuche: faces fresh trial for fraud

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has docked again the former Managing Director of BankPHB Bank Plc, now Keystone Bank Plc, Mr. Francis Atuche on a 45-count charge of alleged N125 billion fraud.

Also charged with Atuche at the Federal High Court in Lagos is the former managing director of the defunct Spring Bank Plc, Mr. Charles Ojo.

The re-arraignment of the two former Bank Chiefs was sequel to the transfer of the former trial judge, Justice Saliu Saidu from Lagos.

Saidu  has been transferred to the Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, division of the court.

Atuche and Ojo are now being re-arraigned before Justice Ayokunle O. Faji, who is the fifth judge to handle the matter. The case started in 2007.

After the re-arraignment of the two bank chiefs,  the EFCC, prosecutor Mr. Kemi Pinheiro  told the court that he had tendered 65 documents as evidence in the case before the former trial judge,  and he still has additional 110 documents to tender.

He also urged the court for quick trial of the matter,  adding that the prosecution is at risk of losing some of  the witness it intends to call on the matter.

However, an attempt by Pinheiro (SAN) to prevail on the court to give the two defendants a new bail condition, was opposed by their lawyers.

Atuche’s lawyer, Chief Anthony Idigbe (SAN) who was represented by Mr. Kalu Okorie, and  Ojo’s , Mr. Osahon Idemudia, passionately pleaded with the court to let their clients continue with the bail conditions earlier granted by Justice Akinjide Ayakaiye.

Justice Ajakaiye had admitted them to bail in the sun of N20 million with one surety in the same sum, who must be a property owner in Victoria Island, Ikoyi, and GRA Ikeja.

Justice Ayokunle O. Faji, in his ruling, ordered that the two defendants should  continue to enjoy  the earlier bail term, but in addition ordered that the surety must swear to an affidavit of still being their surety in the next 14 days.

Thereafter the matter was  adjourned till February 23, and March 16 and 17.

The two former bank’s managing directors were arraigned by the EFCC, on an amended 45-count charge bordering on alleged N125 billion fraud, conspiracy, reckless granting and approval of loans and money laundering between September 1, 2006 and 2009.They pleaded not guilty to all the 45 counts.

The alleged offences, according to the anti-graft agency, contravene Section 14(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act and Section 516 of the Criminal Code Act Cap 38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004. The offence of reckless granting of loans contravenes Section 7(1)(b) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act and punishable under section 7(2)(b) of the Advanced Fee Fraud Act, 2004, and sections 15(1) of the Failed Banks (Recovery of debts) and Financial Malpractices in Banks Act, 2004,

At the last proceedings of the case, Mr. Osahon Idemudia, counsel to the second accused, Charles Ojo, had asked the court for an adjournment to enable him have pre-trial conference with his client.

The anti-graft agency had re-arraigned both Atuche and Ojo before the court on charges of acquiring Keystone Bank’s shares using depositors’ funds.,

The duo were also alleged to have applied N3.5billion, being proceeds of unlawful loans granted to Tradjek Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of Futureview Financial Services Limited, in payment for his acquisition of shares of Bank PHB using various companies as fronts with an intention to conceal the ownership of the loans and that he collaborated with different companies to conceal the genuine origins of the N3.5billion used to acquire the bank’s shares.

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