By NBF News
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Company denies link with Atuche
• As ex-Bank PHB MD says EFCC listed property he doesn't own

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Contrary to the position of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that former managing director of Bank PHB, Mr. Francis Atuche, owns 15 landed property, it has been discovered that some of the property so listed do not belong to the ex-bank chief. This is coming at a time when the former bank chief has said that he owns only four landed property, which he legitimately acquired.

In a related development, the management of Bank PHB has continued to cut its workforce. It was gathered that about 1,000 workers have been laid off in the last two weeks.

Last December, the new managing director of the bank was embroiled in a controversy over an alleged leave allowance.

One of the properties the EFCC listed as belonging to Atuche, Colonnades Hotel and Resorts Limited, on Alfred Rewane Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, had, in a paid newspaper advertorial yesterday denied any connection with the former Bank PHB chief.

The hotel said, in the advertorial: 'For the avoidance of doubt, Mr. Francis Atuche is neither a director nor shareholder of Colonnades Hotels and Resorts Limited. He is also neither a sole or joint owner of the property situated at 21 Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos State. Colonnade Hotel is neither a customer nor debtor of bank PHB Plc.'

In the newspaper advertorial, signed by Prof. Taiwo Osipitan, the hotel stated that it would file the necessary applications to set aside the ex-parte motion EFCC got to seize its property and 13 others.

Also, faulting EFCC list, Atuche denied owning 10 of the property the EFCC linked to him. He admitted owning four out of the 14, adding that two of them are undeveloped plots of land in his hometown, Ibusa and Abuja.

Speaking through his lawyers, Anthony Idigbe, Ricky Tarfa and Adeniyi Akintola(SANS) , Atuche lamented that his late father's compound and even a house he resided as a tenant in 1990, were also among the property listed by the EFCC as belonging to him.

He said that linking him to property not belonging to him was scripted and orchestrated plan to witch-hunt him in order to justify the forced clampdown on Bank PHB.

Atuche said that his salary, as managing director of Bank PHB was enough to acquire the four property he owns, adding that he legitimately acquired them.

Meanwhile, he has applied to the Federal High Court in Lagos to either de-freeze his bank accounts or vary the freeze order, which the EFCC got last Monday. He said that this has become necessary to enable him maintain his family and carry out other basic day-to-day commitments.

The former bank chief maintained that he has neither equity shareholding nor financial interest in seven of the 18 companies alleged by the EFCC as being used as fronts. In addition, he stated that apart from his personal account and his wife's, he has no knowledge or connection with any of the five other accounts listed by the EFCC.

He insists that the EFCC misrepresented some facts in bringing the ex-parte application that led to the court order of March 1, to freeze all bank accounts allegedly believed to belong or be connected to him, including his accounts and spouse's account in Bank PHB.

Atuche stated the freezing of his bank accounts and seizure of his property violated his constitutional rights to own immoveable property anywhere in Nigeria, right to choice of counsel, adequate facilities and time to prepare his defence

He added that his constitutional right to life and human dignity has also been greatly violated, as the purported freezing order would hinder him from maintaining his family and discharging his responsibilities.