The trial of the former MD of defunct Bank PHB, Francis Atuche, who is standing trial alongside a former Executive Director of defunct Spring Bank, Charles Ojo over an alleged N125bn was on Thursday adjourned to October 14 by Justice Ayokunle Faji of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The defendants, who were re-arraigned before Justice Faji on February 18, 2017 by the Economic and financial Crimes Commission [EFCC] were accused of reckless granting of several billions of loans between 2006 and 2009 to Platinum Capital Limited, a company in which they both have interest.
The loans were alleged to have been granted without adequate security, an act the EFCC said violated Section 516 of the Criminal Code Act Cap 38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
The prosecution further alleged that Atuche and Ojo conspired to grant several billion naira loans to one Futureview Service Limited “without adequate security and contrary to accepted banking practice.”
They were also alleged to have granted loans without adequate security by the defendants were Petosan Oil and Gas Limited, Tradjek Nigeria Limited and Extra Oil Limited.
In one of the counts, Atuche and Ojo were accused of “failing to take all reasonable steps to ensure the correctness of the June 2009 Bank PHB monthly bank returns to the Central Bank of Nigeria.”
Atuche and Ojo were alleged to have committed offences contravening the provisions of Section 7(2) (b) of the Advanced Fee Fraud Act, 2004, and Section 15(1) of the Failed Banks (Recovery of debts) and Financial Malpractices in Banks Act, 2004; and the provisions of Section 516 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C38, Laws of the Federation, 2004, as well as Section 14 (1) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 200.
When the case came up for mention on Thursday, July 23, the court sought to find out how the prosecution and the defence would want to proceed with the matter in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prosecuting counsel, Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), noted that due to the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, there would be need for both parties to produce duplicate copies of exhibits before the court, as part of precautionary measures to limit the possibility of contracting the dreaded coronavirus.
“This will help ensure that there will be a limit to the exchange of documents between counsels and the court, or witnesses, such that every party has its own documents with them,” he said.
No objections were raised by the defence team, as the court instructed both parties to always produce duplicates of the bundles of documents before the court as exhibits so that all parties – the court, the prosecution, defence and witnesses would have their copies of the documents in the course of proceedings.
Thereafter, Justice Faji adjourned till October 14, 15 and 16, 2020 and November 11, 12, 19 and 20, 2020 for “continuation of hearing”.