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Atuche's N125bn Fraud Trial: Keystone Bank Summoned

By Francis Iwuchukwu, Lagos 

Justice Ayokunle Faji of a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos State, Nigeria, on Monday Summoned Keystone Bank, over the trial of the former Managing Director, MD, of Bank PHB, Francis Atuche, and that of Spring Bank, Charles Ojo.

It would be recalled that the duo are standing trial over allegation of fraud to the tune of N125 billion in the charge slammed against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

Specifically, the anti-graft agency had slammed an amended 45-count charge that has to do with the alleged offence(s) against Atuche and Ojo.

The bank chiefs were first arraigned before Justice Saliu Saidu on February 20, 2014.

Justice Saidu was however transferred out of the Lagos jurisdiction.

Consequent upon the transfer of Justice Saidu, the criminal charge was re-assigned to Justice Faji, promoting their re-arraignment before the court on February 18, 2017.

Interestingly, Justice Saidu was returned to the Lagos division, and the case still continued before Justice Faji.

Prior to this time, Atuche and Ojo had pleaded not guilty to the charge on their re-arraignment, and the  court had allowed them to continue on the earlier bail granted by Justice Saidu.

On June 11, 2019 which was the last adjourned date, the second prosecution witness, Philipa Odesi, had in her lead examination, explained to Justice Faji and had given evidence concerning the operation of credit facilities in the bank.

At Monday's sitting on the criminal case, the EFCC lawyer, Chukwudi Enebeli, notified Justice Faji that it had issued service of a subpoena signed by the court, on Keystone Bank last week.

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

But the prosecution expressed sadness that all documents had not been gathered, and in the circumstance, sought a further date for trial.

This warranted the trial court to adjourn the case till November 11, 15, 28,  and 29 as well as December 3, 4 and 5 for continuation of trial.

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

According to the EFCC, the alleged offence(s) contravenes the provision of Section 7(2) (b) of the Advanced Fee Fraud Act, 2004, and Section 15(1) of the Failed Banks (Recovery of debts) and Financial Malpractices in Banks Act, 2004.

The Commission equally insisted that the alleged offence(s) contravenes the provision 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.

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