N25.7bn theft charge: EFCC appeals judgement freeing Atuche, others

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The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos was yesterday urged to set aside the judgement of a Lagos High Court which discharged a former Managing Director of defunct Bank PHB, Mr. Francis Atuche of the N25.7 billion theft charge preferred against him.Francis AtucheThe notice of appeal filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC,  also prayed the court to re-list the case at the high courtfor fresh trial.Discharged alongside Atuche at the lower court were his wife, Elizabeth and aformer Chief Financial Officer of the bank, Ugo Anyanwu.The trial judge, Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo, while delivering judgement in the matter on June 22, 2015, upheld the arguments canvassed by the defence team including Chief Anthony Idigbe (SAN) and Sylvia Ogwemoh (SAN) that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit and that the prosecution’s case lacked merit.In the appeal lodged by the anti graft body’s counsel, Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), it prayed for an order of the court to set aside the order of Justice Lawal-Akapo,which struck out the counts contained in the amended information dated June 1, 2011 against  the respondents.Besides, EFCC sought for an order allowing its appeal and an order directing acontinuation of trial and defence before Justice Lateefa Okunnu of the High Court of Lagos State, in Ikeja.The anti-graft body hinged its appeal on five grounds.The agency further submitted that the defendants pleaded separately each of the counts contained in the amended information to the main suit, adding,  that “counts one to 10 dealt with the alleged stealing of money belonging to the bank while counts 11 to 27 dealt with the allegation of conversion of the monies to personal use.”It said the court ignored Section 152 and 153 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law 2011 by striking out all the counts against the defendants.

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