N25.7b fraud: Court freezes ex-Bank MD’s N19.1b in 24 banks

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A Lagos State High Court in Ikeja has frozen assets and funds to the tune of N19,178,253050 billion allegedly belonging to convicted former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB, Francis Atuche.

The said sums are scattered in 24 banks.

Justice Lateefat Okunnu made the order sequel to an August 17 application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)’s counsel Mr Kemi Pinheiro (SAN) in Charge No. ID/1549/2011 between the Federal Government on the one hand and Atuche and Ugo Anyanwu as first and defendants.

Anyanwu, a former Chief Financial Officer of the bank, is serving time in jail following his conviction and sentencing to six years imprisonment last June 16 for N25.7billion fraud alongside Atuche

Justice Okunnu, while sentencing the duo last June, ordered that they should make restitution of the N25.7b to the Federal Government to replace the funds stolen from the public to bail out the bank.

The judge, ruling on Pinheiro’s August 17 on Thursday, granted the agency’s 12 prayers pursuant to sections 6(d), 20, 24, 26(1), 30 and 34(1) of the EFCC Act and sections 290, 294 and 297 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law 2015, filed by the prosecution counsel led by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr Kemi Pinheiro.

Justice Okunnu held: “An order is made restraining the 1st Defendant (Atuche) whether by himself or acting through the persons or entities listed or such other persons including but not limited to his family members or agents, from removing, alienating, disposing of, dealing with or diminishing the value of assets, proceeds of economic and financial crimes or otherwise in the name of the 1st Defendant…”

She noted that the assets or funds included those held indirectly by or for Atuche’s benefit, whether solely or jointly held, that is located in Nigeria or worldwide.

The judge further froze any bank account being run and operated by Atuche “personally or jointly, whether in his personal name or otherwise or with the Bank Verification Number: 22295357230 in any of the respondent banks to the tune of N19,178,253,050.00 only, pursuant to the Restitution Order made by this Honourable Court on the 16 day of June 2021.”

She barred Atuche and his privies – including his lawyers – from presenting to the Respondent Banks any mandate or instruction for the withdrawal of any money and/or funds standing to the credit of any of their accounts to the tune of N19, 178, 253. 050.

In another order, she restrained the banks from honouring any such instruction from Atuche and his privies.

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