Who is Francis Atuche? Why Was He Sentenced To Jail?

Francis Atuche, born in Delta State is a renowned Nigeria banker and was the Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer of Platinum and Habib Bank (Bank PHB) now Keystone Bank.

He attended IMD Laussane Switzerland, the Lagos Business School and holds a Masters degree in Banking and Finance from the Univerrsity of Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria.

Atuche is also the founder of one of the leading mortgage institution, Finacorp Building Society Limited and a retail shopping chain, Hubmart Stores, offering multi-format stores in various locations and positioned to offer customers a world-class shopping experience.

Not many know that the businessman delved into the retail business by buying off a multi-storeyed complex on Adeola Odeku Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, owned by former military Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida. Today, the Hubmart Stores, launched in 2015 and known for providing international standard products and high-quality fresh food categories, is headquartered in the building and it has expanded with three branches in Lekki, Omole and GRA, Ikeja.

In addition, he has an extensive experience in Credit and Marketing Branch Development/ Coordination and Management; has worked in various capacities for many Nigerian banks like United Bank for Africa (UBA), Chartered Bank and Ecobank Plc.

However, on June 16 2021, Francis Atuche was convicted at Lagos State High Court for stealing and conspiracy to steal. He was convicted alongside former chief financial officer of Bank PHB, Ugo Anyanwu while his wife, Elizabeth Atuche was discharged and acquitted.

Atuche was sentenced to over 6 years in prison for stealing ₦25.7 billion belonging to the bank and still standing trial for ₦125 billion alleged fraud before Lagos Division of the Federal High Court.

The trial began 12 years ago, in 2009, when BankPHB was declared distressed and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) declared Atuche wanted over an alleged fraud of N56 billion. He was detained at the Ikoyi office of the commission and arraigned alongside his wife, Elizabeth, and Ugo Anyanwu, a former chief financial officer of the bank, for stealing the said sum.

The banker denied the theft and was in and out of detention until the case was dismissed due to lack of evidence to prove that he stole the money. Concurrently, Atuche, alongside Charles Ojo, a former Executive Director of the defunct Spring Bank Plc, is also facing 45 counts charge of money laundering, reckless granting of a loan and N125bn fraud.

The duo 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 an interest. They were also alleged to have conspired to grant several billion naira loans to one Futureview Service Limited of which 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.

EFCC seized over N50 billion, 18 companies and 15 houses from the banker. Also, 17 bank accounts belonging to him were also frozen. In one of the accounts domiciled with the bank, N25.95 billion cash was said to have been found. The EFCC also sealed off several houses traced to him. Some of which are located Ikoyi, Delta, Lagos, Abuja and London.

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