N25.7b theft: Atuche has a case to answer, Court rules

By The Rainbow

An Ikeja High Court presided over by Justice Lateefa Okunnu has ruled that the former Managing Director of Bank PHB, Francis Atuche and his co-defendants had a case to answer over the N25.7 billion theft charges preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).The EFCC had charged Mr Atuche, his wife, Elizabeth and the former Chief Financial Officer of the bank, Ugo Anyanwu, with 27 counts of stealing the sum of N25.7 billion belonging to the bank while he (Mr Atuche) was the MD of the bank.

The defendants, had through their counsel, Anthony Idigbe and Sylva Ogwuemor filed a no case submission, urging the court to strike/dismiss or acquit them of the charges.

They also told the court that the evidences by the witnesses were unreliable because of the noticeable contradictions of facts as it concerns issues of the actual money allegedly stolen and acceptable banking procedures.

Ruling on the application, brought pursuant to Sections 35(3), 36(5) of the Constitution and Section 239 of the Administration of Criminal Laws of Lagos State, Justice Okunnu said she had much evidences from the prosecution before her and asked the defence to provide their own explanations to those evidences.

'A lot has been said about each of the defendants. I cannot by now deal with all the evidence before me. Has enough been said to warrant the defendants to open their defence. There are 27 charges and 272 exhibits before me', she said.

The judge, who declined going through some of the arguments raised by the defence, said having heard from the prosecution, it is necessary to hear from the defence on the allegations laid against them.

'All what has been said requires explanations from all the defendants to warrant fair hearing. The no-case cannot be upheld. I have found that the two applications before me cannot succeed,' she said.

She said evidence had been laid that Mr Atuche converted the bank fund into his personal use and there was nothing yet to evaluate the evidence.

'The applications are hereby over-ruled and the defendants are hereby called to open the defence', Justice Okunnu said.

The matter has been adjourned till July 17 for the Atuches to open their defence.