Convicted Ex-banking Chief, Francis Atuche Loses London Properties, Forfeits N19.1bn
An Ikeja High Court of Lagos State, has frozen assets and funds to the tune of N19,178,253,050 allegedly kept in 24 banks in Nigeria, by the convicted former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB, Francis Atuche.
The banks said to have warehoused the monies are: 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 include: 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
Justice Lateefat Okunnu, who presided over the court made the order sequel to an August 17 application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Charge No. ID/1549/2011, between Federal Government of Nigeria against Atuche and Ugo Anyanwu, as first and 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, ordered them to make a restitution of the N25.7 billion, to the Federal Government to replace the funds stolen from the public to bail out the bank.
The judge granted the agency’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 prosecution counsel led by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr Kemi Pinheiro.
In granting the forfeiture order, Justice Okunnu 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…”
Justice Okunnu also noted 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.
The judge further frozen 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 pursuant to the Restitution Order made by this Honourable Court on June 16, 2021.”
She barred Atuche and his privies –including his lawyers, 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.
Furthermore, the judge also restrained the above mentioned banks from honouring any such instruction from Atuche and his privies.
The judge added: “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 afore mentioned 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.
The EFCC had told the court that 15 persons and 22 firms were used as front by Atuche 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 22 firms in which Atuche has interest in directly or indirectly, according to the EFCC, 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, Temple Cottage Hotel Limited.
Others include: 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.
Also, properties directly or indirectly linked to Atuche which were affected by the order include; Aqua Harvest Farm, Atlantic Hall Road Opposite Mukadam House, Doka Epe, Lagos and Plot 1263, Adeola Odeku Street, Victoria Island, Lagos; Hubmart Stores, 35 Adeola Odeku Street, Victoria Island, Lagos; Hubmart Stores, 26 Isaac John, GRA, Ikeja, Lagos; Hubmart Stores, Block A10, Plot 2 & 3 Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos; Lennox Mall, Plot 2 & 3 Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos; Hubmart Stores, Isheri Road, Omole Phase 1, Ojodu, Ikeja, Lagos; Temple Cottage Hotel, Plot 323 Akin Ogunlewe Street, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Others are 2b Falomo Close, Ikoyi, Lagos; No. 11 Kingsway Layout (Now No. 4 Kingsway Close, Old Ikoyi, Lagos); House on Road 2 VGC, Lekki, Lagos; House 169, Road 43, VGC, Lekki, undeveloped land at Road 2 VGC (1300-2000) Sq. Metres; undeveloped property on Alfred Rewane Road, Ikoyl, Lagos, 418 Anifowoshe Street, Victoria Island, Lagos; 46, Mamma Nasir Street, Off TY Danjuma, Asokoro, Abuja,
And his three London properties: Flat 23, Harley House, Marylebone Road, London; 59, Avenue Close, Avenue Road, St. John’s Wood, London, 18 Wycombe Square, London and W87JD, Isle of Man.