Biography

Francis Atuche Biography, Age, Early Life, Education, Career, MD of Bank PHB, Arraignment, The Trial, Temporary Relief, The Defence, Personal Life, Wife, Children, Family, Net Worth, Social Media, Twitter, N25.7bn fraud, Six years in prison

Biography Of Francis Atuche

Francis Atuche Biography

Another well-known Nigerian banker is Francis Atuche. He held the position of Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Platinum and Habib Bank (Bank PHB).

Nigeria’s Delta State is home to Francis Atuche’s birth.

Francis Atuche’s name on their profile Francis Atuche in real life Birthdate, Age, and Years (2021) Origin State Nationality of Delta State Nigeria Faith

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Francis Atuche Biography
Francis Atuche Biography

SPECIAL REPORT: The protracted journey of banker Francis Atuche to prison

On July 6, 2011, Mr. Atuche’s trial before Justice Okunnu got underway after the judge turned down the defense attorney’s request for a stay of the case.

On May 3, 2011, a quiet drama took place at the Atuches’ Ikoyi, Lagos, house in the evening.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had sent over a dozen agents to the opulent residence of Francis Atuche, the erstwhile managing director of Bank PHB, to apprehend the bank president and his spouse, Elizabeth.

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They were informed that the pair had left the nation.

However, the police disagreed, basing their decision on their intelligence.

They discovered Mrs. Atuche after breaking through the door to explore the residence. But her husband had vanished from sight.

A week later, Mr. Atuche was listed as wanted by the EFCC due to claims of money laundering totaling ₦8.6 billion.

He was also charged with embezzling about ₦100 million in cash from depositors through his wife’s business.

Two days later, the banker turned himself in.

Francis Atuche Biography
Francis Atuche Biography

Francis Atuche The Arraignment

On May 17, 2011, Mr. Atuche was charged by the EFCC before Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo of the Lagos State High Court’s Ikeja Division on two distinct charges.

In the first accusation, it was claimed that Mr. Atuche, the managing director of Bank PHB at the time, and Funmi Ademosu, a director, planned to steal N4.2 billion, which was a portion of the money obtained from the sale of 241,579,284 Afribank shares, which were jointly owned by Caverton Helicopters Ltd. and Bank PHB.

The offense violates Section 516 of Lagos State’s 2003 criminal code laws, and it is penalized under such laws.

According to the second accusation, Mr. Atuche and Lekan Kasali, another bank director, reportedly planned to steal N7.2 billion and pass it off as loans to Cogipar Nigeria Limited.

All of the offenses, according to the EFCC, were committed between April and September of 2008.

Elizabeth Atuche was arraigned on a three-count charge of conspiracy and stealing before Lateefah Okunnu, another judge, on the same day.

The accused stated that she had illegally converted the proceeds of various illegal loans for the purchase of 337,500,000 units of Bank PHB Plc shares on behalf of Ghazali Yakubu Investment Ltd. and AFCO Associates Limited, so misappropriating N11.4 billion in property belonging to Bank PHB Plc.

Mrs. Atuche’s attorneys begged the judge to keep her in EFCC custody so that her three small children could see her daily during the bail hearing.

The judge denied the plea and ordered her to be held in jail until she complied with the terms of her bail, which included the requirement for two sureties to deposit N100 million and own an N25 million piece of landed property in Lagos.

The EFCC revised the accusations against the Atuches in June 2011.

The pair was re-arrested before Mrs. Okunnu on a 27-count indictment on conspiracy to commit a crime and embezzlement of N25.7 billion from the bank.

According to the new allegations, Mr. Atuche, his spouse, and Ugo Anyanwu, a former Bank PHB senior financial officer, bought 140,625,000 shares of the bank on behalf of Guesstrade Services and Clearville Business Support using some of the stolen money.

They also purportedly purchased 112,500,000 Bank PHB shares with a portion of the funds.

As per the EFCC, the offenses took place from November 2007 to April 2008.

The accused presented sixteen defense arguments in support of their quashing of the allegations against them.

They informed the judge that the Federal High Court in Lagos had received a similar charge from the EFCC.

Additionally, they requested that the judge prevent the anti-graft agency from pursuing fresh accusations against them, as the EFCC is not authorized to pursue them under the Lagos State Criminal Code due to its creation of federal legislation.

The EFCC’s attorney, Kemi Pinheiro, contended that the commission’s authority to choose a charge and bring charges against suspected criminals is inherent in the statute that established it.

He went on to say that the charges the defendants were facing at the Lagos High Court were not the same as those the EFCC had brought against them in the Federal High Court.

Mr. Pinheiro, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, stated, “My Lord can look at the counts filed at the Federal High Court and the one filed here to see whether they are similar or not.”

“Eleven of the fourteen companies listed in the Federal High Court’s list are not present here. They are not equivalent.

The judge gave Mr. Atuche a bail of N150 million, with two sureties in equal amounts. The sureties must be residents of Lagos, employed for a profit, and one of them must be a member of the board of directors of a bank or other respectable company that has its headquarters in either Abuja or Lagos.

The judge prohibited Mr. Atuche from leaving the country without the court’s permission until the conclusion of his trial. Additionally, he must report to the EFCC headquarters on the first working day of each month.

After the hearings before Judge Okunnu concluded, the attorneys for the EFCC went to the courtroom of Judge Onigbanjo and requested that the judge step down from Mr. Atuche’s and the two bank directors’ trial. Mr. Pinheiro claims that the judge had stated in a decision made a few weeks prior that there were parallels between the charges that the Federal High Court and he were facing.

“These statements have the prosecuting authority extremely confused and disturbed, and they seem to give the court a slant on the substantive charges,” Mr. Pinheiro stated.

“Our clients no longer trust the judge to uphold the standards of justice in the ongoing case, in light of the upsetting remarks.”

However, Lagos State Chief Judge Inumidun Akande turned down the EFCC’s request.

Francis Atuche The Trial

On July 6, 2011, Mr. Atuche’s trial before Justice Okunnu got underway after the judge turned down the defense attorney’s request for a postponement of the trial.

As one of the prosecution’s witnesses, Rauf Bello, a representative of First Registrars Nigeria Limited, testified that during his tenure as managing director, Mr. Atuche utilized around a dozen entities to buy 1.6 billion units of Bank PHB shares valued at N27.7 billion.

The bank’s secretary collected the dividend warrants for the shares, according to Mr. Bello, who the court subpoenaed. He continued by saying that the firms had paid out more than N790 million in dividends on the shares they had bought.

Elizabeth Ebi, the managing director of Futureview Financial Services, was another witness who stated that Bank PHB had inadvertently debited her account with a loan of “N10.9 billion.”

The third defendant, Mr. Anyanwu, gave the next prosecution witness, Ifetayo Obi, instructions to transfer over N10 billion to accounts at Futureview Securities, Falcons Securities, and other companies. According to her, there was no usual “customer instruction” involved in the move.

Ms. Obi, a Bank PHB employee, stated, “Normally it is supposed to come with customer-signed instructions.”

I then went to my direct supervisor, Kingsley, who collected my message and promised to get back to me. The Chief Financial Officer of the bank had signed the same form when he returned later. We followed the order once I got the all-clear from my divisional director.

Later, the court entered as evidence checks made out to Futureview Limited, Resolution Securities Limited, Falcon Securities Limited, and Petosan Nigeria Limited totaling billions of naira. In 2008, the money was utilized to purchase shares of Bank PHB through a public offering.

Former Bank PHB chief credit officer Phillipa Ulasi testified that Mr. Atuche lent N14.3 billion to a few companies without the board’s consent. Futureview Securities (N3.5 billion), Extra Oil Ltd (N3.9 billion), Trajeck Ltd (N3.5 billion), Resolution Trust and Investment Ltd (N3.3 billion), and Petosan Oil and Gas Limited (N4 billion) were among the companies to which the Bank PHB CEO allegedly gave loans.

“It was my duty to propose credit proposals to the board for endorsement and approval when clients sought them. Regarding the aforementioned loans, I have not received any communication from the board,” Mrs. Ulasi stated.

The attorneys for Mr. Atuche submitted a request in March 2012 to have the EFCC refrain from introducing any more evidence during the trial. The application was denied by the judge.

The bank chief was permitted on July 9, 2012, by Justice Onigbanjo, who is also hearing one of Mr. Atuche’s cases, to go to the United Kingdom for medical treatment between July 17 and September 7, 2012.

The EFCC produced records that seemed to show Mr. Atuche giving N35 million and N10 million as tithes to St.

Augustine Catholic Church in Delta State, the home church of the bank CEO, and St. Monica Catholic Church in Ibusa when the trial resumed in September.

However, after Bolaji Ogunsola, the witness who supposedly made the accusation, claimed he received death threats from people in Delta State, the trial was put on hold for several weeks.

On March 4, 2013, the prosecution concluded its case after bringing twelve witnesses to testify orally and subpoenaing six more to provide documents.

Subsequently, the defense submitted a no-case brief, pleading with the court to free Mr. Atuche due to inconsistencies in the prosecution’s witness testimony.

According to one witness, fake loans were approved. One person stated that these were standard loans.

The prosecution must explain these inconsistencies, according to Anthony Idigbe, a senior advocate in Nigeria and the Atuches’ attorney.

According to Mrs. Atuche’s attorney, no witness testimony connects her to the allegations.

“The sole proof is that she is a managing director of a bank’s wife and a shareholder in Gazali Yakubu Investment Limited,” Mr. Idigbe stated.

The attorney for Mr. Anyanwu, Sylva Ogwuemor, also requested that his client be discharged from court since there wasn’t enough evidence to support a standing trial.

“The third accused did not profit from the transactions, so there is no evidence to support the charge of stealing,” the attorney stated.

“The only thing he did wrong was sign documents and send emails, which were his official responsibilities as the bank’s chief financial officer.”

The EFCC rejected the applications, pointing out that Mrs. Atuche was the largest shareholder of Afco Associate Ltd., which got some of the cash and controlled 80% of the shares of Gazali Yakubu.

The defendants were directed to begin their defense after the judge rejected their no-case motion.

The judge declared, “The prosecution has enough evidence before me. About 12 witnesses have been called, and the prosecution has presented 272 exhibits before the court.”

Francis Atuche Biography
Francis Atuche Biography

Francis Atuche The Defence

Pat Utomi, the chairman of the Bank PHB board, was the first witness called by the defense.

In his testimony, Mr. Utomi stated that certain governmental officials’ plans to take over Mr. Atuche’s bank were the reason for his prosecution.

“I was informed that Bank PHB would remain unaffected and that CBN would tolerate the removal of Atuche.

The current governor of the CBN, Lamido Sanusi, is the one who told me.

Up until recently, when these atrocities were being committed, he was a very dear friend of mine, Mr. Utomi stated.

He said that because the board disregarded Mr. Sanusi’s instruction, the bank failed the CBN’s Stress Test.

Additionally, Mr. Utomi stated that the board of directors had authorized the loans that Mr. Atuche had given.

In response to Mr. Utomi’s evidence, the EFCC said that, in his capacity as board chairman, he also received bank loans, some of which he utilized to finance his 2007 presidential campaign.

Mr. Utomi refuted the assertion.

Judge Okunnu penalized Mr. Atuche’s attorneys in October 2013 for “wasting the court’s time.”

Due to their lectures, the two attorneys were not present on the day of the hearing.

Additionally, the judge allowed Mr. Anyanwu to travel to the United States for a medical examination between October 7 and October 21.

On December 3, Mr. Atuche’s attorneys appeared in court once more to submit a request that the accusations against their client be dropped.

The action was taken in response to a Court of Appeal in Lagos dropping a theft case brought against Okey Nwosu, a former managing director of Finbank Plc, and several other individuals.

In Mr. Nwosu’s case, the appellate court determined that because the charge was derived from capital market activities, the Lagos High Court lacked jurisdiction to consider it.

The court decided that the Federal High Court ought to consider a lawsuit involving the capital market.

Mrs. Okunnu denied the application and postponed the trial.

Due to an ongoing lawsuit before the court of appeals, Mr. Atuche’s attorneys applied for a stay of proceedings in March 2014.

The judge denied the application once more.

Courtroom power failures disrupted proceedings for a significant portion of the 2014 court days.

On the other hand, Mr. Atuche declared on the dock in the middle of 2014 that he had never stolen before.

“My faith is Catholic. No, I’m not a thief. He was led in evidence by his attorney and stated, “I was baptized in the church, and before I left primary school, I started receiving Holy Communion, which I do every day.”

“If I am not in the state of grace, I am not able to receive Holy Communion.” God has been kind to me, so I can’t be a thief.

Francis Atuche Temporary Relief

In June 2015, the Atuches were granted a short reprieve after the high court dropped the defendants’ accusations of lack of jurisdiction after the court of appeals ruled that the charges included matters of the capital market.

In addition, the court ordered that a new judge be assigned to the case.

The ruling was promptly appealed by the EFCC, which contended that the majority of the accusations against the defendants involved the diversion of depositor cash for personal use and theft.

But the Atuches’ triumph was fleeting.

The Supreme Court reversed the appeals court’s ruling in 2017 and directed Justice Okunnu to reopen the trial after hearing testimony from eighteen witnesses.

The Supreme Court ruled that the Court of Appeals neglected to justify moving the case to a different judge.

After reading the unanimous ruling, Justice Ejembi Eko said that the appellate court’s judgment was “perverse,” pointing out that a new judge would have had to hear the issue.

“The case should not have been transferred to a new judge entirely because neither Justice Lawal-Akapo nor Justice Okunnu was accused of any wrongdoing by the parties to the case,” he stated.

On June 16, after the case was brought back before Justice Okunnu, the judge found Messrs. Atuche and Anyanwu guilty.

After a 12-hour trial, Mrs. Okunnu read her ruling and supported Mr. Pinheiro, the EFCC’s attorney, who claimed that the N25.7 billion was stolen rather than lent, as Mr. Atuche had claimed.

The judge ruled that the prosecution’s evidence—that the loans were utilized to buy shares—was not refuted by the first or third defendants.

“They instead argued that the funds approved as loans could be applied to any kind of purpose.”

However, Mrs. Atuche was given her release and found not guilty.

The judge gave the prisoners a chance to speak before reading out her sentence.

Mr. Atuche begged for mercy, stating that he did not want to be convicted because he was a skilled banker and chartered accountant.

“I ask God to put kindness in your heart,” he said to the court.

From the bottom of my heart, I beg you. I apologize deeply; I know that this will be a pivotal day in my life.

Messrs. Atuche and Anyanwu were given six years each in prison by the judge.

Francis Atuche Biography
Francis Atuche Biography

N25.7bn fraud: S’Court upholds Atuche, the former MD of Bank PHB, six years in prison

Francis Atuche, the former managing director of the now-defunct Bank PHB, was found guilty and sentenced to six years in prison by the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division. On Friday, a five-member panel of the Supreme Court upheld this decision.

In an appeal with the case number CA/LA/CR/668/2021, the Lagos appellate court maintained the June 16, 2021, ruling made by the Lagos State High Court under charge number ID/154c/2011.

Atuche and two other people were accused of committing around N25.7 billion in fraud, and the Court of Appeal upheld their conviction on all 27 counts.

However, the Lagos State High Court’s 12-year sentence against Atuche was lowered to six years by the appellate court.

The Supreme Court ruled in its ruling during the Friday session that the Appeal Court’s decision was “hereby affirmed.”

In the lead judgment written by Justice Habeeb Abiru and read by Justice Moore Adumein in the appeal filed by Atuche with the file number SC/CR/1223/2023, the court determined that the case lacked substance.

The appellant was deemed to have failed to provide a rationale for the Supreme Court to interfere with the concurrent rulings of the two lower courts.

In cases like this one, where a trial court’s determination regarding a witness’s demeanor is backed by both oral and written evidence presented during the trial, an appeal court has no business overturning the trial court’s ruling.

“There is no justification for this court to interfere with the concurrent conclusions of the two lower courts in this appeal,”

This argument is not well-founded. It said, “This appeal is denied because it is not successful.

Before Justice Lateefat Okunnu of the Lagos State High Court, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had charged Atuche, his wife Elizabeth, and a former Chief Financial Officer of the bank that had closed, Ugo Anyanwu.

In a ruling on June 16, 2021, Okunnu found Atuche and Anyanwu guilty on 21 of the 27 counts of revised accusations against them, which included stealing and conspiring to conduct a felony, as filed by the EFCC.

After that, the judge gave Anyanwu a 10-year term and Atuche a 12-year sentence.

Later, Okunnu cleared and released Atuche’s wife after the prosecution was unable to establish her connection to the crime.

She believed that suspicion—no matter how strong—cannot replace actual knowledge.

The judge ruled that there was insufficient evidence to support her claim that she knew where her husband got the money that ended up in her bank account and that she lacked the authority to stop the transaction.

The appellate court maintained the discharge and acquittal of Atuche’s wife while reducing Anyanwu’s sentence to eight years and reducing Atuche’s to six years.

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