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Court Freezes Atuche’s N19.1b In Banks

A Lagos State High Court in Ikeja has frozen assets and funds put at N19,178,253,050 allegedly kept in 24 banks by a convicted former bank Managing Director Francis Atuche.

Justice Lateefat Okunnu made the order, following an August 17 application by counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), in a suit between the Federal Government on the one hand, and Atuche and Ugo Anyanwu as first and second defendants.

Anyanwu, a former Chief Financial Officer of the bank, is serving time in jail, following his conviction and sentencing to six years imprisonment last June 16 for N25.7 billion fraud alongside Atuche.

Justice Okunnu, while sentencing the duo last June, ordered that they should make restitution of the N25.7 billion to the Federal Government to replace the funds they stole from the public to bail out the bank.

The judge, ruling on Pinheiro’s August 17 motion which The Nation sighted yesterday, granted the commission’s 12 prayers pursuant to sections 6(d), 20, 24, 26(1), 30 and 34(1) of the EFCC Act and sections 290, 294 and 297 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law 2015, filed by Pinheiro.

Justice Okunnu held: “An order is made restraining the first 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 first defendant…”

The judge averred that the assets or funds included those held indirectly by or for Atuche’s benefit, whether solely or jointly held, that is located in Nigeria or worldwide.

She also froze 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 N19,178,253,050.00 only, pursuant to the restitution order made by this honourable court on June 16, 2021”.

Justice Okunnu also barred Atuche and his privies – including his lawyers – from presenting to the respondent 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.

In another order, the judge restrained the banks from honouring any such instruction from Atuche and his privies.

According to the EFCC, Atuche used 15 persons as fronts to launder the funds.

They are: 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 anti-graft agency listed 22 firms in which Atuche has an interest – directly or indirectly.

It also named and gave the addresses where the convicted banker had properties in Nigeria and overseas.

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