News Alert: Court freezes jailed ex-bank PHB MD, Atuche’s N19.1b stashed in 24 banks
Justice Lateefat Okunnu of the Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja has ordered the freezing of the assets and funds to the tune of N19, 178, 253,050 belonging to a convicted former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB Plc, Francis Atuche.
The Judge gave the order on Tuesday, August 31, 2021, following an ex parte application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on August 17, 2021.
The funds, investigation showed, 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.
Moving the application, counsel to the EFCC, Kemi Pinheiro, SAN, told the court that 15 persons, as well as 22 firms, were used by Atuche and his co-respondent, Ugo Anyanwu, a former Chief Financial Officer of the bank, to launder the funds.
Pinheiro listed the individuals to include Anthony Atuche, Emeka Patrick Atuche, Paul Okobi, Felix Oyiana, Moruf Kazeem Adisa, Olatunji Abiodun, Daniel Enebeli, Aina Olugbenga, Augustine Nwabueze, Omonua Benedict, Oliver King Nduaaron, Dr. Chris Ike Ogbechie, Mr. Murat Bektaslar, Attah Omataikpo Olukemi and Thomas Etuh.
The EFCC counsel further stated that the firms, in which Atuche has either direct or indirect interest are: Aqua Harvest Limited, 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
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 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.”
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.”
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 their 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.”
Justice Okunnu had, in June this year, sentenced Atuche to six years imprisonment and Anyanwu four years for stealing and conspiracy to steal to the tune of N25.7bn.
The judge, while sentencing the duo, had ordered them to make restitution of the sum of N25.7bn to the Federal Government to replace the funds stolen from the public to bail out the bank.
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“Rt. Hon. (Barr.) Legor Idagbo – Chairman ii. Hon. Henry Nwawuba – Member iii. | Mrs. Kehinde Bolade Olaiya – Committee Clerk.
President Tinubu appoints Gbajabiamila Chief of Staff
An authoritative source in the Presidency confirmed the development on Thursday.
The source said the president finally made the decision after wide consultations on the contending candidates.
Gbajabiamila has been a member of the House of Representatives since 2012 and has just been re-elected to the House in the last elections.
The choice of Gbajabiamila by the president is not a surprise to many political pundits as he has been a very close ally to the president.
They are part of the brains behind the formation of the All-Progressives Party (APC).
He will now have to forgo his seat in the House of Representatives if he accepts the appointment.
Olufemi Hakeem Gbajabiamila CFR, is a Nigerian lawyer and foundation member of the APC.
He has been a member of the House of Representatives since 2019.
Gbajabiamila was born in Lagos in 1962 and attended Igbobi College for his secondary education and the University of Lagos as part of his education.
He is married to Salamatu Gbajabiamila.
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“The death of Ray came as a big shock to the union.
“We are going to miss his courageous attributes and mentorship.
“He was also one of the pillars of the Lagos Council of NUJ and served the union meritoriously in his capacities as the Chairman of, the Seminar Committee; and as a Member, the Committee on Milestone Recognition of Media Icons In Nigeria.
“He spent most of his life in ensuring the advancement of Maritime Reporting as well as the welfare of Journalists.
“He worked in several media houses.
“Among his giant strides, he was a former President of the Maritime Reporters’ Association of Nigeria (MARAN); President, Maritime Journalists Association of Nigeria (MAJAN); and a former Chairman of the Daily Times Chapel of NUJ.
“The legacies of Ray are indelible and will exist forever.
“May God grant his soul eternal rest” the Lagos NUJ said in a statement signed by Leye Ajayi, the Council Chairman and Tunde Olalere, the Council Secretary.
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