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EFCC appeals verdict in alleged N25. 7b fraud case against Atuche

FRANCIS ATUCHE OF BANK PHPThe Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has filed a notice against the judgment of a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja, which discharged a former Managing Director of defunct Bank PHB, Francis Atuche of the N25.7 billion theft charge preferred against him.

The court presided over by Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo had on June 22, 2015 delivered judgment in the suit, which upheld the submissions of the defence counsel of Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) and Sylvia Ogwemoh (SAN) that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit and that the prosecution’s case lacked merit.

He also discharged his wife, Elizabeth and a former Chief Financial Officer of the bank, Ugo Anyanwu.

According to him, “I find no merit in the prosecution’s application, it is hereby dismissed. The defendant’s application dated November 27, 2013 succeeds and I hereby make the following orders:

“The criminal charge in this suit is hereby struck out and the accused persons namely; Francis Atuche, Elizabeth Atuche and Ugo Anyanwu are discharged. The complainant’s notice of plenary objection dated December 3, 2013 is hereby dismissed.”

The anti-graft body in its notice of appeal filed by its counsel, Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), is asking for an order of the Court of Appeal to set aside the order of Justice Lawal-Akapo striking out the counts contained in the amended information dated June 1, 2011.

Among other orders EFCC is seeking include: an order to allow its appeal, an order directing a continuation of trial and defence before Justice Lateefa Okunnu of the High Court of Lagos State sitting in Ikeja.

The anti-graft commission based its appeal on five grounds that the learned trial judge erred in law to strike out the entirety of the amended information when by the unambiguous and plain provisions of Section 252(3) of the Constitution, no exclusive criminal jurisdiction is conferred on the Federal High Court (at least to the exclusion of the Lagos High Court) on the matters provided for under Section 251(1).

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