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Bear Your Cross! Friends, Family Desert Ex-Bank PHB Boss, Francis Atuche As He Bags 12-Year Jail Term

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Bear Your Cross! Friends, Family Desert Ex-Bank PHB Boss, Francis Atuche As He Bags 12-Year Jail Term

Bear Your Cross! Friends, Family Desert Ex-Bank PHB Boss, Francis Atuche As He Bags 12-Year Jail Term
June 27
15:44 2021
. The sudden transformation of his wife, Elizabeth, from social butterfly to an outcast

For Francis Atuche, the next 12 years would unfurl as a serial nightmare. He would spend all of his time in fulfillment of a penal settlement, and join hordes of incarcerated felons at casting long wistful glances at the tent of blue that prisoners call freedom, and that the free casually take for granted as the sky.

As Atuche dragged his fit, like heavy logs of wood, in an uncertain march into prison, pundits wonder what damning thoughts plagued his mind? His wife, Elizabeth agonised over the long spell of cold nights and unrequited yearnings she would have to endure; more importantly, she rued that particular moment for the haunting imagery it bequeathed to her.

Watching her husband being led from the dock into confinement devastated her. She probably wondered, “How will I survive his long absence?”

Atuche probably walked wary of what imperilment lay ahead, knowing that Nigerian prisons are hardly correctional centres but labyrinths designed to break inmates and convert convicted felons into specimens in a zoo—obedient to their keepers, but dangerous to each other. He probably wondered too if his marriage would survive his long absence. Will his wife hold on for 12 years? Would she maintain her chastity and fend off the wolves when they come to raid her feminine graces? Would she shun temptation and thus salvage his comatose honour?

Until her husband’s predicament, Elizabeth kept the boisterous life of a social butterfly, garnishing high society with bouquets of elan and her ravishing presence. Elizabeth was courted and feted as one of high society’s upper crust but unknown to her, karma lurked somewhere between darkness and dawn in their gated paradise.

After a lifetime of affluence, fate played a cruel joke on the Atuches as Francis got sentenced to 12 years in prison after he was found guilty of defrauding defunct Bank PHB Plc of N25.7 billion during his tenure as Managing Director (MD) of the bank. Justice Lateefa Okunnu delivered his sentence at an Ikeja High Court, in Lagos.

As the sentence was delivered, Elizabeth turned pale, despite her dashing beauty. She recalled the horror of her descent from grace immediately after her husband lost his privileged position at the bank, in the wake of an anti-graft investigation launched by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2011.

Atuche was one of the bank chief executives who allegedly fleeced customers and shareholders of their hard-earned money. Since 2011, he had been answering court cases bordering on corrupt enrichment and other unethical practices, which allegedly caused Bank PHB to go down and had to be mopped up by AMCON.

 

Consequently, things became extremely tough for them. While her husband fought to stave off his prosecution, Elizabeth faced serious challenges of her own; she was ridiculed and dumped by her friends and loved ones.

Heartbroken, the former socialite ditched her airs and abandoned her comfort zone to seek solace in the temple of God. She became a staunch believer and ardent churchgoer.

Rumour has it that she was forced to seek solace in God because of her husband’s travails.

Rather than sit back to enjoy the fruits of her husband’s labour Elizabeth had been burdened by grief over his protracted trial; they both became regular faces in court since Francis’ inglorious exit as the helmsman at the then Bank PHB. The EFCC refused to back down on his case and asserting its determination to watch him march into jail.

Now that her husband has been jailed, nobody wants to have anything to do with Elizabeth anymore. Her high profile friends have deserted her and her name like her husband’s has become synonymous with fraud, among other disgraceful insinuations.

Sources close to her revealed that asides her husband’s incarceration, Elizabeth is more devastated by the desertion she suffered by her friends and family members; many of whom have developed a knack for ridiculing her, alleging that when the going was good, Elizabeth and her husband lived la vida loca on stolen money.

Even her closest friends and established beneficiaries of her affluence are among those spreading nasty rumours about her. This is no doubt heartrending for the delectable woman who owed her affluence and appeal to her husband’s filthy lucre; until now.

The first knell of danger sounded in the mien of Justice Okunnu as she prepared to pronounce her judgment. Atuche’s skin crawled with fear. When she pronounced her judgment, it cut through the night and the tense atmosphere of the Ikeja High Court in Lagos.

Justice Okunnu found Atuche guilty of defrauding Bank PHB Plc of former Managing Director of Bank PHB Plc of N25.7 billion during his tenure as Managing Director of the bank and sentenced him to prison for 12 years. His accomplice and former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the bank, Ugo Anyanwu, was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for stealing and conspiracy to steal.

Atuche and Anyanwu were both found guilty of 22 of the 27 counts of the conspiracy and stealing charge proffered against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2011.

And so ended his frenetic race in search of pardon and escape the long arm of the law. After Justice Okunnu delivered her judgment, Atuche begged not to be sent to jail. He prayed Okunnu to temper justice with mercy.

He said, “All the time I was the MD of Bank PHB, I gave my all to the bank. Never at any material time did it occur to me that I would set up a scheme to defraud the bank. I plead for mercy, leniency, your kindness, and I plead that out of your kindness and generosity, you will not allow me to go to jail. I am sorry and remorseful.”

But Justice Okunnu declined his plea, stating that Atuche abused his position of trust by stealing from the bank. Addressing the convict and his accomplice, she said,

“By stealing from the bank, they stole from innocent customers of the bank. I hereby make an order of restitution against the first and third defendants to refund the sums stated in counts one to 11, 14, and 24. The sums are to paid to the relevant agencies that recovered the funds on behalf of the bank,” she ordered.

Thus Atuche, who is also the owner of Hubmat supermarket, failed to lobby his way into reprieve. In the end, misery galloped into his life, ridding his days of rosiness and his nights of bedtime bliss.

Atuche’s misdemeanour has come to a full reckoning with the law. The disgraced bank chief now understands that it is only when you mastermind a banking fraud and successfully pull it off that you become a national hero; fail and you suffer monumental disgrace and at least a 12-year imprisonment.

Atuche now understands that there is a thin line between notoriety and renown when you choose the path of a cheat and a fraud as a bank manager.

 

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Mujeeb

Mujeeb

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