After a long trial that lasted over 12 years, a former Managing Director of Bank PHB, Mr. Francis Atuche has been sentenced to jail for over six years.
He was found guilty of stealing N26.7b belonging to depositors by a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos State.
In a judgement that last for 10 hours, Justice Lateefat Okunnu convicted Mr. Atuche and Mr. Ugo Anyanwu, a former Chief Financial Officer of the Bank.
The due were convicted on at least six of the 27-count charges of conspiracy to commit felony and stealing brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The court however cleared Mrs. Elizabeth Atuche, wife of Mr. Francis Atuche, of conspiracy and stealing as the Judge insisted that suspicion, however strong can not take the place of fact.
The court held that it was not proven that she was aware of the source of the funds she received into her account from her husband and she had no powers to take any decision to influence the transaction
Mr. Anyanwu is to serve a four-year jail term having being found guilty on counts 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12 and 24.
Mr. Atuche was found guilty on counts 1, 2, 5, 7, 9 and 23.
In her judgement, Justice Okunnu held that Atuche and Anyanwu abused their powers, ignored established rules and regulations thereby putting the bank and depositors’ funds in danger.
She rejected claims by the defendants that they were merely professionally negligent and concluded that they corruptly took advantage of their positions to confer on themselves undue financial benefits without regard to the health of the bank.
“The convicts stole from the bank and depositors and because of their action, taxpayers’ money was used to bail out the bank,” she ruled.
Justice Okunnu said she has considered the plea of the convicts, “but there must be consequences for wrongdoings.” She stressed that sentences are not just for punishment but also for deterrence.
She also ruled hat the convicts should make restitution by paying back the sum of N25.7 billion to the government to enable it settle depositors whose funds were stolen.