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Court Jails Former Bank PHB Boss, Francis Atuche To Over 6 Years In Prison

A Lagos High Court yesterday sentenced former Managing Director of defunct Bank PHB, Francis Atuche to over 6 years in prison.

In a judgment that lasted for over 10 hours, Justice Lateefat Okunnu convicted Atuche alongside a former Chief Financial Officer of the bank, Ugo Anyanwu.

The two were convicted on at least 6 of a 27-count amended charge of conspiracy to commit a felony and stealing brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

While Atuche who was found guilty on counts 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 23 of the charge would serve a 6-year term for each count,  Anyanwu will serve a 4-year jail term for counts 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 22 and 24 of the amended charge.

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They are to serve their jail term consecutively. This sentence is coming after a trial that lasted over 12 years.

In delivering her sentence, Justice Okunnu held that the EFCC successfully proved its case against the convicts beyond a reasonable doubt.

The judge rejected claims by the defendants suggesting that they were merely professionally negligent.

She specifically held that Atuche and Anyanwu abused their powers, ignored established rules and regulations thereby putting the bank and depositors’ funds in danger.

The court also came to the conclusion that the convicts corruptly took advantage of their positions to confer on themselves undue financial benefits without regard to the health of the bank.

“The convict stole from the bank and depositors and because of their action, taxpayers money was used to bail out the bank”.

Justice Okunnu held that she had considered the plea of the convicts, but there must be consequences for wrongdoing, adding that sentences are not just for punishment but also for deterrence.

She also ruled that the defendant should make restitution of the amount stolen from the bank. They are to pay back the sum of N25.7billion to the Federal government to replace the funds stolen from the public to bail out the bank.

According to the Judge, they are to serve their jail terms at the Kirikiri maximum correctional facility in Lagos.

Justice Okunnu however, cleared Atuche’s wife on the charge of conspiracy and stealing.

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