The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos has affirmed the conviction of former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB Plc, Francis Atuche, over a N25.7 billion fraud.
The court also affirmed the conviction of Mr Atuche’s Co-accused, Ugo Anyanwu, who was the bank’s former Chief Financial Officer.
A three-justice panel of the court comprising Justices Sadiq Umar, Adebukola Banjoko and Kayode Bada, upheld in part, the June 16, 2021 judgment of Justice Lateefa Okunnu of the Lagos State High Court, Ikeja.
The justices resolved all the issues in the appeal in favour of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
They also affirmed the discharge and acquittal of Mr Atuche’s wife, Elizabeth. Both men had headed to the appellate court to challenge their convictions at the lower court.
The appeal was heard in April, following which the court adjourned till Thursday for judgment.
In an abridged decision read by Justice Umar, the panel upheld the EFCC’s arguments and unanimously dismissed the appeal.
Last year, Justice Okunnu had, while sentencing both men, upheld the arguments of Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), who prosecuted the case on behalf of the EFCC with a fiat of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.
The EFCC arraigned the defendants in 2011 before Justice Okunnu.
But the defendants approached the Court of Appeal after about three years, to challenge their trial by the lower court for lack of jurisdiction.
In a judgment delivered in September 2016, the court ordered Justice Okunnu off the trial but did not quash the charges against the defendants.
The EFCC then approached the Supreme Court to set aside the decision of the appellate court and order trial in the matter.
After listening to the EFCC’s counsel, the apex court directed that the case be returned to Justice Okunnu for continuation of trial. In her judgment, Justice Okunnu agreed with Mr Pinheiro’s arguments that the funds in dispute were stolen and not loaned, as stated in the defence of the accused persons.
She subsequently sentenced Mr Atuche to six years, and Mr Anyanwu to four years, while Mr Atuche’s wife was acquitted.