The Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, on Thursday, affirmed the conviction of a former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB Plc, Francis Atuche, over N25.7 billion fraud.
The court also affirmed the conviction of Atuche’s accomplice and co-convict, Ugo Anyanwu, who was the bank’s former Chief Financial Officer.
A three-man panel of the court comprising Justices Sadiq Umar, Adebukola Banjoko and Kayode Bada, on Wednesday, upheld in part, the judgement delivered by Justice Lateefat Okunnu of a Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja on June 16, 2021.
The Justices resolved all the issues in the appeal in favour of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), except for the issue of sentencing.
In its judgement, the Appellate Court clarified that Atuche’s jail term, as handed down by the lower court is 12 years cumulatively and not 120 years.
The Justices, however, reduced Anyanwu’s sentence from 10 years to 8 years, while also affirming the discharge and acquittal of Atuche’s wife, Elizabeth.
Following their conviction and subsequent sentencing by the lower court, Atuche and Anyanwu had lodged an appeal at the Appellate Court seeking to upturn the verdict.
The duo were arraigned before the court by the anti-graft agency in 2011 for the offence.
Atuche and his co-defendants, however, approached the Court of Appeal after about three years of their arraignment to challenge their trial by the lower court.
They argued that the lower court lacked the jurisdiction to try them.
In a judgement delivered in September 2016, the Appellate Court ordered Justice Okunnu to recuse herself from the case but did not quash the charges against the defendants.
Dissatisfied with the ruling, EFCC approached the Supreme Court to set aside the decision of the appellate court and order continuation of trial in the matter.
After the hearing of the appeal, the apex court directed that the case be returned to Justice Okunnu for continuation of trial.
In her judgement, Justice Okunnu upheld the arguments of EFCC’s lawyer, Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), that the N25.7 billion was stolen, not loaned, as argued by Atuche.
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