Atuche’s trial: Court rejects use of graphic presentation

Francis Atuche An Ikeja High Court on Thursday rejected an attempt by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to use a graphic presentation in the trial of a former Managing Director of Bank PHB, Francis Atuche.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Atuche is standing trial before Justice Lateefat Okunnu for allegedly stealing N25.7 billion belonging to Bank PHB ( now Key Stone Bank).

He was charged to court alongside his wife, Elizabeth and a former Chief Financial Officer of the bank, Ugo Anyanwu, by the EFCC.

At the resumed trial on Thursday, EFCC counsel, Mr Kemi Pinheiro, tendered a memory stick containing a graphic presentation of how the defendants allegedly committed the offence.

Pinheiro urged the court to admit the device as exhibit, arguing that it would aid the testimony of his witness, Mr Hamada Bello, an EFCC investigative officer.

However, counsel to the defendants, Chief Anthony Idigbe and Mr Sylva Oguemoh, opposed the request.

They argued that the documents contained in the memory stick must be certified in line with the provision of Section 84 of the Evidence Act.

In a short ruling, the judge sustained the objection of the defence counsel to the request, noting that it did not satisfy the provision of the Evidence Act.

Okunnu said:”It is a reproduction of data produced by a computer and so it is a document.

“Section 84 clearly states that such documents must be duly certified.

“It is inadmissible in law; the objection is sustained and the memory stick is hereby rejected in evidence”.

Following the ruling, Bello opted to give an oral account of the EFCC’s investigation of some illegal transactions allegedly carried out by the defendants.

He alleged that Atuche had granted loans to some companies without any formal request for a loan facility from the owners of the companies.

Bello said, “We discovered that a N10.9 billion loan facility was booked to Futureview Financial Services Ltd., Tradjeck Ltd. and Extra Oil Ltd., which were owned by Mrs Elizabeth Ebi.

“A N4 billion loan was booked to Petosan Oil and Gas Ltd. and N3.3 billion loan was also booked to Resolution Trust Ltd., both owned by Mr Peter Ololo”.

According to him, Ololo and Ebi later admitted to the EFCC that they never requested for the loans, and it was granted without their knowledge.

He alleged that the purpose of the hoax loan was to facilitate the plan of the defendants to acquire Bank PHB shares for their own companies.

The witness further alleged that the former bank chief instructed Anyanwu to buy shares for some companies, purportedly owned by the Atuche’s, with the bank’s funds.

Bello said the companies included Gazali Yakubu Investment, The Financial Services Ltd., Guess Trade Services, Noel Investment Ltd. and Afco Associates Ltd.

He alleged that the creation, movement, utilisation and the return of the loans depicted a clear case of money laundering.

NAN reports that the matter was adjourned to Jan.14 for continuation of trial.

NAN

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