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N25.7 Billion Bank Fraud: Court Convicts Francis Atuche

N25.7 Billion Bank Fraud, Court Convicts former Managing Director of Bank PHB, now Keystone Bank, Francis Atuche and his former Chief Financial Officer, Ugo Anyanwu

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A Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja has sentence the former Managing Director of Bank PHB, now Keystone Bank, Francis Atuche to six years imprisonment over N25.7 billion fraud charges.

Delivering judgement after 13hours long analysis of the each count charge, Justice Lateefa Okunnu found Atuche and his former Chief Financial Officer, Ugo Anyanwu guilty as charge.

She sentence Anyanwu to four years imprisonment on each count charge consecutively.

They were convicted for 21 out 27 counts charges.

The judge however discharged and acquitted Atuche’s wife noting that the prosecution failed to prove conspiracy allegations levelled against her in the charges.

The judge noted that Atuche abused his position of trust by stealing from the bank.

“By stealing from the bank, they stole from innocent customers.

“I hereby make an Order of restitution against the first and third defendants to refund the sums stated in counts one to 11, 14 and 24.

Also Read: N450m Money Laundering: Bulama Others To Face Fresh Trial

“The sums are to paid to the relevant agencies that recovered funds on behalf of the bank.

Justine Okunnu said Atuche and Anyanwu were able to defraud Bank PHB of billions of Naira using well recognised stock brokers to transfer money belonging to the bank under the guise of loans and shares.

“It was a well planned, well executed scheme but the bubble burst when the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) intervened” she noted.

The judge also noted that a large volume of documentary evidence was produced by parties in the case.

She said documents such as bank records, emails and the statements of key actors in the case played a key role in securing the conviction of the defendants.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had in 2011 arraigned Atuche, his wife and the then financial officer of the moribund bank PHB Plc (now Keystone Bank), Mr. Ugo Anyanwu, over the alleged fraud.

The commission in the charge sheet which was read to the former bank executives alleged that they committed the offence between November 2007 and September 2008.

Read Also: Baba Ijesha Saga: Lagos Reiterate Zero Tolerance To Child Molestation

EFCC alleged that the accused persons sold 241, 579, 284 units of Afribank shares, a joint property of Caverton Helicopters Ltd, and Bank PHB Plc and converted the proceeds for their personal use.

The three accused persons were alleged to have fraudulently converted some of the stolen money into loans to Congipar Nig. Ltd and using same for their personal use.

The EFCC claims the alleged offences contravene Sections 516 and 383 of the Criminal Code Law, CAP C17, Laws of Lagos State, 2003. .

In the charge against Atuche’s wife Elizabeth, she was alleged to have stolen N8.5 billion belonging to the bank between November, 2007 and April, 2008.

The EFCC alleged that Mrs Atuche fraudulently converted the proceeds of several loans for the acquisition of 337,500,000 and 168,750,000 units of Bank PHB shares on behalf of Ghazali Yakubu Investment Limited and AFCO Associates Limited.

The alleged offences contravene Sections 519 and 383 of the Criminal Code Law, CAP C17, Laws of Lagos State 2003.

The accused persons pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

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After about three years into the trial, Atuche and co-defendants approached Court of Appeal to challenge their trial by the lower court for lack of jurisdiction.

In a judgement delivered in September 2016, the Appellate Court stopped the lower court from going ahead with the trial.

The appellate court also failed to quash the charges against Atuche, his wife and others but ordered Justice Okunnu to hands off the trial.

The appellate court further directed the Chief Judge of Lagos State to re-assign the case to another judge.

Following the decision of the court of appeal, the EFCC approached the Supreme Court to set aside the decision of the lower court and order trial in the matter.

In an unanimous decision, the apex court overturned the decision of the appellate court.

The panel agreed that the lower court’s decisions on the matter was “perverse” and, therefore ought to be set aside.

Justice Ejembi Eko, who prepared and read the lead judgment of the apex court, said the order which the Court of Appeal made on September 23, 2016, for the remittance of case to the Lagos State Chief Judge for the purpose of re-assigning the case to another judge, was not aimed at serving the interest of justice.

 

 

 

 

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Top Court News is a product of a dedicated Journalist, owner of I-Wahab Media The Publisher started his Journalism career with Murhi International TV, MiTV in 2003 before working with Radio Nigeria, Lagos Operation, as a Judicial Correspondent. He is presently the Chairman of the National Association of Judicial Correspondent, NAJUC, Ikeja Branch and he is the Vice Chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalist, NUJ, Radio Nigeria Chapel. topcourtnewsng.com is out to serve you with informative and educative News in the Judiciary sector. To put an end to the under reported activities of the sector among the three arms of government

CRIME

Bamise Murder Trial: Court Orders BRT Driver To Get Lawyer

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The trial of the driver of Bus Rapid Transit, BRT, Andrew Nice Ominnikoron who allegedly raped and murdered a 22-year-old passenger, Oluwabamise Ayanwole, suffers set back due to the absence of his lawyer.

At the resumed hearing of the case, at the Lagos State High Court, in Tafawa Balewa Square, the court was informed by the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, Dr Babajide Martins that the defendant’s counsel Abayomi Omotubora was not in court.

On the last adjourned date, on July 7, 2022, Justice Sherifat Sonaike had ordered the defendant to get himself another lawyer to represent him.

The Judge suggested that the defendant should avail himself of a lawyer on the next adjourned date and adjourned the case to September 28, for continuation of trial.

Click To Also Read: Court Rejects Baba Ijesha Post Conviction Bail Pending Appeal

The Judge noted that If the defendant is unable to avail himself a lawyer on the next adjourned date, she would direct that the Legal Aid Council should take up his case.

Omotubora has been absent from court for six consecutive times, but on June 30, the court ordered that the junior counsel from his chamber should conduct his defence.

Ominnikoron is facing a five-count charge bordering on rape, conspiracy, felony, sexual assault, and murder preferred against him by the Lagos state government.

The incident took place on February 26, 2022, at about 7 pm, at Lekki- Ajah Conservation centre Lekki Ajah expressway Lagos and Carter bridge.

Also Read: Gbajabiamila Sent To Prison For N30m Housing Fraud Allegations

The prosecution said that the defendant had sexual intercourse with Oluwabamise Ayanwole, without her consent and murdered her.

According to the prosecution, the offences committed are contrary to and punishable under Sections 411,223,260 and 165 of the criminal law of Lagos State 2015.

However, the 47-year-old defendant pleaded not guilty to the charge preferred against him.

The matter was further adjourned till tomorrow for continuation of trial.

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Governor Dapo Abiodun Aide Sentence To 5yrs Imprisonment for Wire Fraud

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Abidemi Rufai, the suspended aide of the Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, has been sentenced to five years imprisonment for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

A District Court in Western Tacoma, Washington, United States, gave the verdict yesterday.

A statement by the United States Attorney’s Office, Western District of Washington, confirmed the development.

The statement said that Rufai, “A 45-year-old resident of Lekki, Nigeria, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to five years in prison for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft for his attempt to steal nearly $2.4m from the United States government, including approximately $500,000 in pandemic-related unemployment benefits, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown.”

Read Also: US Jury Convicts Nigeria Pilot, Jibril Adamu, Over Drug Trafficking

Until his arrest, Rufai was a Special Assistant to the Ogun State Governor.

The statement, however, said he admitted a long history of using stolen identities to defraud U.S. disaster programs, including aid for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and file fraudulent U.S. tax returns.

At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge, Benjamin Settle, said the motivation was greed, unrestrained greed, and callousness towards those who have suffered.

According to U.S. Attorney Nick Brown, Mr. Rufai was relentless in his scheme to use the stolen identities of Americans for fraud.

“He orchestrated ‘mystery shopper’ scams, business email compromise attempts, and filed fake tax returns to financially harm individuals and businesses.

Also Read: EFCC Secures Extradition Of Alleged Wire Fraudster To USA

“But when disaster struck, so did Mr. Rufai. Whether it was hurricane disaster relief, small business loans, or COVID unemployment benefits, he stole aid that should have gone to disaster victims in the United States,” Brown said.

The Associate Deputy Attorney-General, Kevin Chambers, the Justice Department‘s Director of COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement, said, ”Abdemi Rufai chose to exploit the pandemic for personal gain, using stolen identities of Americans to support his lavish lifestyle overseas.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office and their law enforcement partners did exceptional work bringing this defendant to justice. The Department will continue to pursue fraudsters who abused these programs and seek to recover their ill-gotten gains, whether they are in the United States or overseas.”

According to records filed in the case, since 2017, Rufai stole the personal identifying information of more than 20,000 Americans to submit more than $2m in claims for federally funded disaster relief benefits and fraudulent tax returns.

“The various agencies involved paid out more than $600,000. The largest amount of fraud was committed against the Washington State Employment Security Department, which paid out $350,763 in fraudulent pandemic unemployment claims to accounts controlled by Rufai. Rufai also submitted fraudulent pandemic unemployment claims in at least 17 other states.

Also Click To Read: US Supreme Court Grants American President Leaves To Reverse Immigration Policy

“The Employment Security Department deeply appreciates the tireless efforts of the Department of Justice, federal agencies and law enforcement in this matter.

“We always stand ready to hold those accountable who steal public funds and we appreciate the partnership in catching and prosecuting this individual,” the Commissioner for the Employment Security Department, Cami Feek, said in the statement.

 

 

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CRIME

Shangisha Baale Sentence To 15yrs Imprisonment For Fake Kidnapping

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A Lagos State High Court, sitting in Ikeja has sentenced the dethroned Baale of Shangisha in Magodo, Mutiu Ogundare, to fifteen years imprisonment for faking his own kidnap.

The court had on June 15 discharged and acquitted the third defendant, Ogundare’s wife, Abolanle that she had no link to the offences.

Justice Hakeem Oshodi had on June 15 convicted Ogundare alongside and brother Opeyemi Mohammed on a three-count charge, bordering on conspiracy and fake kidnapping.

Justice Oshodi sentenced the duo to 10 years jail term to count one without an option of fine, count two to 1 year with an option of N200,000 fine and count three to 15 years without an option of fine.

“I have considered the allocutus of the defence counsels. However, it is in the view of this court that the defendants showed no remorse during the trial.

Click To Also Read: Suspected Thug Arraign In Court Over Free-For-All in Ebute-Metta

“In fact, the first defendant tried to buy his way out of the court. A lesson has to be thought to serve as a deterrent to others.

“The defendants are hereby sentenced to 10 years to count one without an option of fine, one year to count two with an option of N200,000 and 15 years to count three without an option of fine.

“The sentencing shall run concurrently from the day they had been arrested,” Oshodi said.

Mr Olarewaju Ajanaku who represented the first defence counsel, Dr. Muniz Banire, in his allocutus on June 15 prayed the court to temper Justice with mercy.

Read Also: POS Swindler, Austin Essiet, Sentence To 1year Imprisonment Over N150k

Ajanaku had prayed to the court that the convict had turned a new leaf and he did not think through his action when he committed the offences.

The second defence counsel, Dr. Olayinka Owoeye, also in his allocutus had prayed the court to temper justice with mercy adding that the convict had learnt his lessons.

The state prosecutor, Mr Jubril Kareem, however, urged the court to apply the provisions of law to sentence the convict.

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