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Federal High Court summons Keystone Bank over N125bn fraud trial of Atuche, Ojo

By The Nigerian Voice

A Federal High Court Lagos on Monday summoned Keystone Bank over the trial of the former Managing Director of Bank PHB, Mr Francis Atuche, and the Managing Director of Spring Bank, Mr Charles Ojo, both whom are standing trial over N125 billion fraud. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) preferred an amended 45-count charge bodering on the alleged offence against the duo.

The defendants were arraigned before Justice Saliu Saidu on Feb.20, 2014, before the judge was transferred out of the Lagos jurisdiction.

Following the transfer of Saidu, the case file was re-assigned to Justice Ayokunle Faji and the defendants were subsequently re-arraigned before the court on Feb. 18, 2017.

Although, Justice Saidu was eventually returned to the Lagos division, the matter still continued before Justice Faji.

The defendants had pleaded not guilty to the charges on their re-arraignment, while the court had allowed them to continue on the earlier bail granted by Saidu.

Trial has since commenced before Faji with the prosecution still leading evidence.

At the last adjourned date on June 11, a second prosecution witness, Mrs Philipa Odesi, had in her lead examination, given evidence about the operation of credit facilities in the bank.

The court had subsequently adjourned the case untill June 17 for continuation of trial.

When the case was mentioned on Monday, Mr Chukwudi Enebeli of Pinheiro LP announced appearance for the prosecution. He informed the court that the prosecution had issued service of a subpoena signed by the court, on Keystone Bank last week.

He said further that the subpoena was for the bank to produce certain documents necessary for the trial, adding that a representative of the bank, one Mr Eze Asiegbu was present in court.

Prosecution however, informed the court that all documents had not been gathered, and in the circumstance, sought a further date for trial.

Justice Faji consequently, adjourned the case until Nov.11, 15, 28, and 29 as well as Dec. 3, 4 and 5 for continuation of trial.

The defendants were first arraigned ten years ago (2009) before Justice Akinjide Ajakaiye. Ajakaiye had granted them bail in the sum of N50 million each with two sureties each in like sum.

They were later re-arraigned before Justice Binta Murtala-Nyako on Feb. 3, 2012, and subsequently, re-arraigned before Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia on Jan. 16, 2013 following the transfer of Murtala Nyako.

Both judges had adopted the bail terms granted by Ajakaiye.

The EFCC had again on Feb. 20, 2014, re-arraigned the accused before Justice Saliu Saidu, following a re-assignment of the case, and then re-arraigned them in 2017 before Faji

According to the charge, the defendants were alleged to have granted credit facilities, manipulated shares and committed general banking fraud to the tune of N125 billion.

The offences contravene the provisions of Sections 7(2) (b) of the Advanced Fee Fraud Act, 2004, and Sections 15(1) of the Failed Banks (Recovery of debts) and Financial Malpractices in Banks Act, 2004.

It also contravenes the provisions of Section 516 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C38, Laws of the Federation, 2004, as well as Section 14 (1) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 200.