Supreme Court Affirms Six-Year Jail Term for Ex-Bank PHB MD Francis Atuche Over N25.7bn Fraud

The Supreme Court has upheld the conviction of Francis Atuche, the former Managing Director of Bank PHB, who was charged with fraud amounting to over N25.7 billion. The apex court dismissed Atuche’s appeal against the appellate court’s judgment that had found him guilty of the fraud allegations.

Justice Moore Adumein, delivering the unanimous decision, noted that Atuche failed to provide convincing reasons to overturn the concurrent judgments of the trial and appellate courts. Adumein emphasized that when a trial court’s decision is supported by documentary evidence, an appellate court should not interfere.

As a result, Atuche’s appeal was dismissed, and the Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the lower courts that had convicted him of corruption and fraud.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had initially declared Atuche wanted over an alleged fraud of N56 billion, leading to his detention for interrogation at the agency’s Ikoyi office. Atuche, along with his wife Elizabeth and Ugo Anyanwu, the bank’s former Chief Financial Officer, was charged with a N25.7 billion fraud in 2011 before a High Court in Lagos presided over by Lateefat Okunnu.

In June 2021, after considering the evidence and arguments, the trial court found Atuche and Anyanwu guilty. Atuche was sentenced to six years in prison, while Anyanwu received a four-year sentence. The court ruled that they had defrauded the bank by transferring money through recognized stockbrokers under the pretense of loans and shares.

Atuche then appealed the trial court’s decision, seeking to have it overturned and to be declared innocent. However, the appellate court upheld the trial court’s judgment, stating that Atuche had not presented any credible grounds for reversing the decision. The Supreme Court subsequently dismissed Atuche’s appeal, affirming the convictions and sentences handed down by the lower courts.