Law News
Planned judges’ transfer stalls Atuche’s N125bn fraud trial

The likelihood that judges of the Federal High Court may be reshuffled has stalled the trial of a former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB, Francis Atuche, who is charged with N125bn fraud.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which was scheduled to open its case against Atuche on Wedneday before Justice Saliu Saidu, could not do so on the likelihood that the judge may be affected by the rumoured transfer.

At the resumed proceedings, the prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Mr. Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), dropped the hint on a directive of the Chief Judge, Justice Ibrahim Auta, that judges should not open any case they were unlikely to conclude before the rumoured transfer.

Consequent upon this, Justice Saidu adjourned Atuche’s  case till December 10, 2015 for mention, by which time, it may have been clear whether or not he would be affected by the rumoured planned transfer.

Atuche and  a former Managing Director of the defunct Spring Bank Plc, Charles Ojo, are facing an amended 45 counts.

The charges bordered on conspiracy, reckless granting and approval of loans, manipulation of shares and money laundering.

The duo were accused of committing general banking fraud and granting of credit facilities without following due process at the time they were the bosses of the defunct banks.

The EFCC further accused them of conspiring to and indeed acquiring shares of Keystone Bank Plc using depositors’ funds.

The anti-graft agency specifically accused Atuche of acquiring N3.5bn shares of Bank PHB, using proceeds of unlawful loans granted to Tradjek Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of Futureview Financial Services Ltd.

The offences, according to the EFCC, were allegedly committed between September 2006 and year 2009.

The EFCC’s prosecutor, Pinheiro, said Atuche and Ojo violated Section 7(1)(b) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act.

The men were also charged for violating Section 14(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, as well as Section 516 of the Criminal Code Act Cap 38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.

But they had pleaded not guilty to the charges and are currently on bail in the sum of N50m each with two sureties in like sum.

Earlier on June 22, 2015, Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo of a Lagos State High Court in Ikeja had discharged Atuche, his wife, Elizabeth and a former Chief Financial Officer of Bank PHB, Ugo Anyanwu, of a N25.7bn theft charges filed against them by the EFCC

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