Court of Appeals affirms conviction of former bank PHB MD Atuche

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The Lagos Court of Appeal has upheld the conviction of a former managing director of the defunct Bank PHB Plc, for fraud of N25.7 billion.

The court also upheld the conviction of Mr. Atuche’s accomplice and co-convict, Ugo Anyanwu, the bank’s former chief financial officer.

He also affirmed the acquittal of Atuche’s wife, Elizabeth.

The tribunal’s three-man panel consisting of Judges Sadiq Umar, Adebukola Banjoko and Kayode Bada Francis Atuche upheld in part the June 16, 2021 sentence of Judge Lateefa Okunnu of the Lagos State High Court, Ikeja.

The high court had sentenced Messrs. Atuche and Anyanwu to six years in prison. The convicts contested their convictions and prayed to the appeals court to overturn the lower court’s decision.

But in an abbreviated ruling read by Mr Umar, the three-man panel upheld the EFCC’s arguments and unanimously dismissed the appeal.

They were indicted in 2011 before Ms Okunnu and pleaded not guilty.

Reading her sentence that lasted more than 10 hours, Ms. Okunnu confirmed the arguments of Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), the EFCC prosecutor, that the 25.7 billion naira was stolen, not lent, as Mr. Atuche argues.

He argued that the money belonged to the bank and could be stolen.

“The first defendant confirmed the bank’s ownership of the money when he said that the bank makes a profit by lending money.

“I am convinced by Pat Utomi’s statement that ‘The bank still has control over the money left in its coffers, no matter who uses it.’

“Helen Eriyo, who is Petosan’s account officer, unaware of the loans granted, credits Mr. Ololo’s testimony that he was unaware of the loan.

“The alter egos and the real managerial minds of the companies knew nothing about the loans. In fact, the loans were a hoax.”

The judge also held that the first and third defendants did not discredit the prosecution’s evidence that the loans were used to purchase stock.

“Rather, they held that the loaned money could be used for any purpose.”

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