Former MD/CEO of Bank PHB, Now Keystone bank, Mr Francis Atuche, as well as Former MD/CEO of Defunct Sring bank, Charles Ojo are still swimming in troubled waters over cases of financial fraud worth Billions on Naira leveled against them by the EFCC. Both men are still fighting hard for freedom, but the it appears they still have a long way to go though as, Justice Saliu Saidu of a Lagos Federal High Court yesterday adjourned for mention the case against the two men to February 27.
Both Mr Atuche, former MD of Bank PHB, now Keystone Bank and Mr Ojo of the defunct Spring bank, are standing trial before the court on alleged N125 billion fraud leveled against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC).
At the resumed hearing of the case on yesterday, Mr. Osahon Idemudia, counsel to the second accused, Charles Ojo, asked the court for an adjournment to enable him have pre-trial conference with his client.
Counsel to EFCC, Mr. Kemi Pinheiro did not raise any objection to the adjournment request.
Consequently, Justice Saidu adjourned the matter till February 27 for mention.
The two former bank chiefs were arraigned before the court by EFCC on an amended 45-count charge bordering on alleged N125 billion fraud, conspiracy, reckless granting and approval of loans and money laundry between September 1, 2006 and 2009. But they had pleaded not guilty to all the 45.
EFCC re-arraigned Atuche and Ojo on charges of acquiring Keystone Bank’s shares using depositors’ funds. EFCC also accused Atuche of applying N3.5billion being proceeds of unlawful loans granted to Tradjek Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of Futureview Financial Services Ltd, in payment for his acquisition of shares of Bank PHB using various companies as fronts with an intention to conceal the ownership of the loans.
And that he collaborated with different companies to conceal the genuine origins of the N3.5billion used to acquire the bank’s shares.
The alleged offences according to the anti-graft agency, contravene Section 14(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act and Section 516 of the Criminal Code Act Cap 38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
The offence of reckless granting of loans contravene Section 7(1)(b) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act and punishable under section 7(2)(b).
At the last trial, the presiding judge had held that the court’s rule on criminal trial is not binding on Mr. Atuche, the former managing director of Bank PHB.
The judge had stated that Section 5 of the court’s Criminal Practice Direction, designed to ensure speedier trial, is not enforceable on him.