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N25.7bn Fraud: Supreme Court  Upholds  Six Year Conviction of Ex- Bank PHB, MD Atuche

The Supreme Court on Friday, June 28, 2024, upheld the conviction and six-year sentence of the former Managing Director of the now defunct Bank PHB, Francis Atuche by the Court of Appeal, Lagos  Division over a N25.7 billion fraud

In a unanimous judgment by a five-member panel which was prepared by Justice Habeeb Abiru and delivered by Justice Moore Adumein, the apex court held that Atuche has repeatedly failed to prove beyond reasonable doubts why the concurrent judgments of the two lower courts should be tampered and upturned.

“Where the finding of a trial court on the demeanour of a witness is supported by oral and documentary evidence tendered at the trial, as in the present case, an appellate court has no business tampering with the decision of the trial court. This court has not been given any reason to tamper with the concurrent findings of the two lower courts in this appeal, hence the appeal is totally lacking in merit, it is hereby dismissed”, the court said.

At the court of first instance,  Justice Lateefat Okunnu of the Lagos State  High Court sitting in Lagos on June 16, 2021 ruled that the EFCC had convincingly proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt and subsequently sentenced Atuche to 12 years and  former Chief Financial Officer  of the defunct bank,  Ugo Anyanwu Anyanwu to 10 years imprisonment. The judge also discharged and acquitted Atuche’s wife,  Elisabeth Atuche.

In an appeal, the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division affirmed the judgment  of the trial court on  June 23,  2022 with an adjustment in Atuche’s sentence to six years and Anyanwu’s sentence to eight years.

 The Court of Appeal equally upheld the discharge and acquittal of Atuche’s wife

Atuche, along with his wife Elizabeth and former Chief Financial Officer Anyanwu were tried by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,  EFCC,  on 27 -count charges  bordering on conspiracy to commit felony, stealing and money laundering.  The court found Atuche and Anyanwu guilty of 21 counts and were subsequently convicted by Justice Okunnu.

 The apex court’s unanimous decision has brought to conclusion the trial of the former top banker that has spanned over thirteen years.

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