The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Tuesday commenced afresh, for the fifth time, the trial of a former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB Plc, Francis Atuche, accused of N125bn banking fraud.
Atuche, who has been standing trial since 2009, was re-arraigned for the fifth time before Justice A.O. Faji of the Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday. Re-arraigned along with him on 45 counts was a former Executive Director of the defunct bank, Charles Ojo.
The prosecution accused them of recklessly granting several billions of naira loans between 2006 and 2009 to Platinum Capital Limited, a company in which they both have interests.
The loans were alleged to have been granted without adequate security, an act the EFCC said violated Section 516 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap 38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
The prosecution further alleged that Atuche and Ojo conspired to grant several billion naira loans to one Futureview Service Limited “without adequate security and contrary to accepted banking practice.”
They were said to have acted contrary to Section 15(1)(a)(i) of the Failed Bank (Recovery of Debt) and Financial Malpractices in Banks Act Cap F2, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, and liable to be punished under Section 16(1)(a) of the same Act.
Also allegedly granted loans without adequate security by the defendants were Petosan Oil and Gas Limited, Tradjek Nigeria Limited and Extra Oil Limited.
In one of the counts, Atuche and Ojo were accused of “failing to take all reasonable steps to ensure the correctness of the June 2009 Bank PHB monthly bank returns to the Central Bank of Nigeria.”
They were also alleged to have, on December 24, 2008, “injected the sum of N650m into Insurance PHB Limited,” contrary to Section 21(2)(a) of the Banks and other Financial Institutions Act, Cap B3, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.”
When the charges were read to them, however, Atuche and Ojo pleaded not guilty.
Ojo’s lawyer, Mr. Osahon Idemudia, urged Justice Faji to allow the defendants continue on the bail terms granted them on November 9, 2009 by Justice Akinjide Ajakaiye, before whom they were first arraigned.
Justice Faji granted the prayer, holding that the defendants shall continue on the N50m bail with one responsible surety each, who must deposit the Certificate of Occupancy of his landed property either in Ikoyi or Victoria Island, Lagos.
Justice Faji, however, said the sureties must update their tax clearance within 14 days.
He adjourned till February 23, March 16 and 17, 2017 for fresh commencement of trial.