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New twist to bank executive's theft trial

24 June 2014, 21:22

Lagos - The trial against former Managing Director of Bank PHB, Francis Atuche, has taken a new twist after a former staffer of Keystone Bank said he was coerced to make false allegations of forgery against the bank executive.

Uguru Onyike, the former employee, told a Lagos High Court in Ikeja some Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) staff compelled him to make the allegations.

Onyike, a former Head of Operations of the bank's Central Shared Services (CSS) Centre in Victoria Island, Lagos made the claim while testifying before Justice Lateefat Okunnu at the resumed trial of Atuche.

The former bank executive and his wife, Elizabeth, are being prosecuted for allegedly stealing N25.7 billion belonging to Bank PHB (now Keystone Bank) by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Also charged with them is a former Chief Financial Officer of the bank, Ugo Anyanwu.

Onyike, who was led in evidence by Atuche's counsel, Tayo Oyetib, said on March last year, one of his staff, Joachim Nnosiri, brought to his attention three documents which were earlier subpoenaed by Okunnu in Atuche's trial.

He said the documents, which were board resolutions emanated from Futureview Securities Ltd., Tradjeck Ltd. and Extra Oil Ltd and were addressed to Keystone Bank, relating to the granting of a N10.9 billion loan facility.

Onyike said Nnosiri claimed that he found the board resolutions in the bundle of documents that were being rearranged in the CSS department and forwarded them to him.

He said, however, when they brought the documents to the attention of the authorities of the bank, they were detained for over 24 hours and the EFCC was later invited.

"The bank and the EFCC were working together and they told us to write a statement implicating Atuche and that the documents were not authentic. One Mr Madaki Abdullahi of the EFCC promised to use us as prosecution witnesses against Atuche.  Abdullahi said that we should make the statement to be very believable," said Onyike.

"We had a chat and agreed on how to write a statement that could implicate Atuche.

The two statements were dictated to me by the EFCC and I signed both of them."

He said after writing the statement, he was later charged alongside Nnosiri and Atuche before Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo, also of a Lagos High Court in Ikeja for forgery.

The witness said this prompted him to depose to an affidavit last March where he retracted the contents of both statements.

He expressed displeasure at the handling of the case saying it had late to his suspension.

The matter has been adjourned to Wednesday for continuation of trial.

- CAJ News


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