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Court freezes assets, N19bn linked to Atuche, ex-Bank PHB boss, in 24 banks

Court freezes assets, N19bn linked to Atuche, ex-Bank PHB boss, in 24 banks
September 02
20:41 2021

An Ikeja high court has ordered the freezing of assets and funds totalling N19.1 billion, allegedly kept in 24 banks by Francis Atuche, a convicted former managing director of the defunct Bank PHB.

Lateefat Okunnu, the judge, gave the order on Tuesday sequel to an August 17 ex parte application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). 

Wilson Uwujaren, EFCC spokesperson, disclosed this in a statement on Thursday.

In June, the judge had sentenced Atuche to six years imprisonment and Ugo Anyanwu, a former chief financial officer of the bank, to a four-year jail term for N25.7 billion fraud.

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Okunnu, while sentencing the duo, ordered that they should make restitution of the N25.7 billion to the relevant agencies that recovered the funds on behalf of the bank.

According to Uwuajaren, investigations showed that the funds were domiciled in 24 different banks in Nigeria, including Citi Bank Limited; Ecobank Nigeria Limited; First Bank of Nigeria Plc; First City Monument Bank (FCMB); Globus Bank Limited; Fidelity Bank Plc; Keystone Bank Limited; Lotus Bank Limited and Mainstreet Bank Plc.

Others are Polaris Bank Plc; Platinum Mortgage Bank Limited; Providus Bank Limited; Stanbic IBTC Nigeria Limited; Standard Chartered Bank; Sterling Bank Plc; Wema Bank Plc; Zenith Bank Plc; Unity Bank Plc; Titan Trust Bank Limited, Union Bank of Nigeria Plc and others.

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“Justice Okunnu granted the 12 prayers of the applicant and held that “An order is made restraining the 1st defendant (Atuche) whether by himself or acting through the persons or entities listed or such other persons including but not limited to his family members or agents, from removing, alienating, disposing of, dealing with or diminishing the value of assets, proceeds of economic and financial crimes or otherwise in the name of the 1st defendant,” the statement reads.

“The Judge also held that “the assets or funds included those held indirectly by or for Atuche’s benefit, whether solely or jointly held, that are located in Nigeria or worldwide.

“Justice Okunnu further ordered the freezing of any bank account being run and operated by Atuche “personally or jointly, whether in his personal name or otherwise or with the Bank Verification Number (BVN) 22295357230 in any of the respondent banks to the tune of N19, 178, 253, 050 billion, pursuant to the Restitution Order made by this Honourable Court on June 16, 2021.”

The court also barred Atuche and his lawyers from accessing the above-listed banks.

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“Atuche and his privies, including his lawyers, were also barred from presenting to the above-listed banks “any mandate or instruction for the withdrawal of any money and/or funds standing to the credit of any of their accounts to the tune of N19, 178, 253. 050 billion,” the statement added.

“Justice Okunnu, who also restrained the banks from honouring any such instruction from Atuche and his privies, further held that “a mandatory order of injunction is made directing the named respondent banks to file within 48 hours of service of this Order of this Honourable Court on them returns of the Statements of Account of the 1st Defendant (personally or jointly) whether in his personal name or otherwise or with the Bank Verification Number: 22295357230 and the accounts of persons and entities listed in the aforementioned Schedules A and B maintained with them.

“A further order is made directing service of the Order made herein on persons affected thereby including, in particular, the persons and entities listed in Schedules A and B. by way of advertisement in either The Punch or Thisday or The Guardian newspaper.”

According to the EFCC, 15 persons and 22 firms were used as a front by Atuche and Anyanwu to launder the funds.

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The individuals are Anthony Atuche, Emeka Patrick Atuche, Paul Okobi, Felix Oyiana, Moruf Kazeem Adisa, Olatunji Abiodun, Daniel Enebeli and Aina Olugbenga.

Others include Augustine Nwabueze, Omonua Benedict, Oliver King Nduaaron, Chris Ike Ogbechie, Murat Bektaslar, Attah Omataikpo Olukemi and Thomas Etuh.

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The anti-graft agency also listed the firms used for money laundering, in which Atuche has either direct or indirect interest to include Aqua Harvest Ltd, Hubmart Stores Limited, Hubmart Limited, Sapphire Capital Management Limited, Homeland Real Estate Company Limited, Malechi Foods Limited, Homeland Meridian Partners Limited, Promise Investment Limited, and Temple Cottage Hotel Limited.

Others are Wegas Properties Project Limited, Buckhead Construction Limited, Claremount Management Services Limited, Afco Associates Limited, Platinum Capital Limited, Ghazali Yakubu Investment Limited, The Financial (Services) Company Limited, Venture Resources Limited, Elizabeth-A Company Limited, Signature Partners Limited, Purplepay Technologies Limited, Oakwood Asset Management Limited and Conesto Nigeria Limited.

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