Atuche: Recalled Witnesses Delay Closure of EFCC Case



The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had concluded plan to round off the N25billion theft case instituted against a former managing director of Bank PHB (now Keystone Bank), Mr. Francis Atuche and two others, Elizabeth Atuche and Ugo Anyanwu but for the recall of two witnesses by the court at its last sitting.

EFCC lead counsel, Kemi Pinheiro, SAN, disclosed this on Wednesday, January, 30, 2013 before Justice Lateefa Okunnu of the Lagos State High Court, Ikeja.  According to him, the EFCC planned to close the case against the former bankers on Wednesday, January 30,  after presenting all its witnesses and concluded all its submissions but for the recall of  Diamond Uij and Elizabeth Ebi by the court at its last sitting on January 28, 2013.

“The EFCC would  have liked to conclude the on- going trial finally today, but as it were, we are handicapped by the court ruling on Monday, January 28, 2013, ordering the recall of  two principal witnesses, Mr Diamond Uji  and Mrs Elizabeth Ebi”, Pinheiro said.  The recall of the two witnesses followed an application filed before the court by lead defence counsel, Anthony Idigbe, SAN and third defence counsel, S. Ogwemoh, praying the court to recall them.  Pinheiro, dissatisfied by the recall of the two witnesses, asked the court how the witnesses will be addressed- prosecution or defence witnesses? Justice Okunnu said that they will be addressed as court witnesses.

At the court session on Wednesday, Ogwemoh continued with the cross examination of the prosecution witness, Adama Hamma Bello. He asked the witness if he was conversant with the term PLD (Post Loan Debit) and who can authorize it in the bank. In response, Bello said he was familiar with the term and that anyone could authorize it. He further explained that in the particular case of Atuche, it was Anyanwu that instructed the Compliant Officer of the former PHB, Teresa Ekon to grant it. Besides, Bello said that the authorization of PLD was a back door transaction involving only staff who were loyal to Atuche.

Ogwemoh asked Bello if Ebi applied for any loan (dubbed hoax loan in the case) and he said Ebi did not apply for such a loan. Bello also said that she didn’t use any of her companies to apply for the loan. “In the course of investigation, we found out that she was paid well over N110million and they called it concealment money”. Bello also said in response to a question posed by Ogwemoh whether Ebi reported any suspicious transaction in her account and he said she did not make such a report.   Justice Okunnu, after listening to all the submissions, adjourned the case till February 11, and March 4 and 8, 2013 for the cross examination of the recalled witnesses.



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