The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Friday, September 20, 2013, told Justice Lateefa Okunnu of a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja that Prof. Pat Utomi, the first defence witness in the trial of a former Managing Director of BankPHB, now Keystone Bank, Francis Atuche and two others, took loan facilities to the tune of N59million at different times from the bank during his tenure as the vice chairman of the bank. This revelation came while Utomi was being cross-examined by the EFCC counsel, Kemi Pinheiro, SAN.
Pinheiro, while presenting documents before the court said Utomi took facilities worth Fifty -Nine Million Naira from the bank during the tenure of Atuche. He said a forty million naira facility was granted to the witness on July 3, 2008, and another draft of ten million naira was also raised on September 23, 2008 in favour of the witness. He said the witness, through a company, U R Maintenance Limited, took another facility of five million naira. Pinheiro also said one Emmanuel Utomi; a relative of the witness received a cheque of four million naira allegedly on behalf of the witness from Clairemount Management Services, a company in which Atuche is alleged to be the sole signatory.
Pinheiro said that at the time the Board of Directors of the bank were ratifying facilities granted by the bank, the facilities granted to the Utomi and many others were not disclosed.
“I suggest to you that the application for these loans predated the meeting. The reason why you did not pose opposition to the ratification of those huge loans was because of the various huge facilities taken by you. You did not voice opposition to the grant of over one hundred billion naira facilities presented to you for ratification. It is the practice in every minutes that the purpose of facilities granted are stated in the minutes, but the minute of the Board of Directors meeting of July 9, 2008 was an exemption”, Pinheiro said.
The witness however refuted the claims. He explained that he had started servicing the loans before the bank was allegedly “stolen”.
Apart from Utomi, other board members also took various loan facilities from the bank. Mike Ajoku, a kinsman of Utomi from Ibusa in Delta state was granted a N428million (Four hundred and twenty eight million naira) loan facility. Fidelis Idita, also a kinsman of Utomi from the same community, took a loan facility from the bank. It was also alleged by the prosecution that one Consolidated Business Support Services got a facility of N1 Billion. The company is allegedly linked to one Ifeyinwa Osime, also a member of the bank’s board.
Pinheiro said the reason why most of these facilities granted were not listed when the CBN called for a list of debtors was because the board members were beneficiaries of the questionable facilities.
He noted that Utomi, at some point, contradicted his earlier claims that the bank’s credit officer presented the list of all companies to the board for ratification when he couldn’t recall if the chief credit officer was male or female.
“On the day over one hundred and twenty billion naira was allegedly ratified by the Board of Directors, you could not recall whether the chief credit officer who was alleged to have made the presentation before the Board was male or female.” said Pinheiro.
The matter was adjourned to October 3, 4, 23, 24, 25; November 18 and December 3 and 4, 2013 for continuation of trial.