Home » Nigeria’s Supreme Court upholds conviction of former banker Francis Atuche for $16.9-million fraud

Nigeria’s Supreme Court upholds conviction of former banker Francis Atuche for $16.9-million fraud

Final verdict brings closure to decade-long legal battle

by Oluwatosin Racheal Alabi

Key Points:

  • The Supreme Court upheld Francis Atuche’s conviction for $16.9-million fraud.
  • Atuche, his wife, and the CFO were charged in 2011 by the EFCC.
  • The Ikeja High Court sentenced Atuche to six years in prison in 2021.

The Supreme Court of Nigeria has upheld the conviction of Francis Atuche, the former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB Plc, for his involvement in a N25.7 billion ($16.9 million) fraud. This verdict brings a decade-long legal battle to a close, affirming the decisions of both the trial court and the Court of Appeal.

In a unanimous decision, the apex court ruled that Atuche failed to disprove the findings of the lower courts. Justice M.A.A. Adumein, delivering the lead judgment, stated that the Supreme Court relied on its previous rulings that support the trial court’s judgment if it is backed by documentary evidence. Therefore, the Appellate Court had no grounds to overturn the decision.

The Supreme Court’s decision marks the final chapter in a long-running criminal case against Atuche. The court found no reason to tamper with the concurrent findings of the trial court and the Court of Appeal.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned Atuche, his wife Elizabeth, and the bank’s former Chief Financial Officer Ugo Anyanwu in 2011. The trio faced a 27-count charge for their roles in the N25.7 billion ($16.9 million) fraud case. Dr. Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), the EFCC prosecutor, presented substantial evidence against them.

Francis case in 2021

In 2021, the Ikeja High Court delivered a landmark judgment in the case against Atuche and Anyanwu. The court found them guilty on 22 of the 27 counts of conspiracy and theft. Justice Lateefa Okunnu described their scheme as meticulously planned and executed. The Central Bank’s intervention during the N25 billion recapitalization exercise exposed their fraudulent activities. Despite their pleas for leniency, Atuche received a six-year prison sentence, while Anyanwu got four years.

This ruling brought closure to one of Nigeria’s most high-profile financial fraud cases. It also served as a stark reminder of the consequences of financial misconduct. Former Central Bank Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi exposed Atuche’s fraudulent activities, which led to significant reforms in Nigeria’s banking sector. This also resulted in the dismissal of other top bank executives, including Erastus Akingbola of Intercontinental Bank and Cecilia Ibru of Oceanic Bank.

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