Mr. Francis Atuche

Trial of former managing director of Bank PHB now Keystone Bank Plc, Mr. Francis Atuche, and former managing director of defunct Spring Bank Plc, Mr. Charles Ojo, who are facing alleged N125 billion fraud before a Lagos Federal High Court, was again stalled following the likely transfer of Federal High Court judges, which could take effect any moment from now.

At the resumed proceedings of the matter slated for trial on Wednesday, lawyer to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mr. Kemi Pinheiro, SAN, informed the court of the Chief Judge’s directive of likely transfer of judges and advised judges not to commence any trial they may not be able to conclude before the transfer.

Upon the revelation by Pinheiro, SAN, the presiding Justice, Saliu Saidu, adjourned the matter till December 10 for mention.

The two former bank managing directors were charged before Justice Saliu Saidu by the EFCC on an amended 45-count charge bordering on alleged N125 billion fraud, conspiracy, reckless granting and approval of loans and money laundering between September 1, 2006 and 2009.

But they had pleaded not guilty to all the 45-count charges, and are currently on bail.

The alleged offences, according to the anti-graft agency, contravene Section 14(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act and Section 516 of the Criminal Code Act Cap 38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004. While offence of reckless granting of loans contravenes Section 7(1)(b) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act and is punishable under section 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.

At the last proceedings of the case, Mr. Osahon Idemudia, counsel to the second accused, Charles Ojo, had asked the court for an adjournment to enable him have pre-trial conference with his client.

The anti-graft agency had re-arraigned both Atuche and Ojo before the court on charges of acquiring Keystone Bank’s shares, using depositors’ funds.

The duo were also alleged to have applied N3.5 billion, being proceeds of unlawful loans granted to Tradjek Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of Futureview Financial Services Ltd, in payment for his acquisition of shares of Bank PHB, using various companies as fronts with an intention to conceal the ownership of the loans. And that he collaborated with different companies to conceal the genuine origins of the N3.5 billion used to acquire the bank’s shares.

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