Thursday, January 19, 2012

EFCC’s witness contradicts self in trial of Atuche, others

THE trial of the former Managing Director of Bank PHB (now Keystone Bank Ltd), Mr. Francis Atuche, his wife, Elizabeth, and the erstwhile chief financial officer, Ugo Anyanwu, over financial impropriety resumed yesterday at the Lagos High Court, Ikeja.
It was characterised by denials from the fifth prosecution witness, Helen Eriyor, who said she was not on the bank’s payroll during the controversial transactions.
Eriyor, a relationship manager for marketing and credit in her evidence-in-chief, told the court that she resumed work at the bank on December 3, 2007, while the credit facilities were granted to the affected companies by the bank in November 2007.
She admitted being the relationship manager for the Petrosan Oil and Gas Ltd, one of the companies, which got loans from the bank when she brought the firm in December 2007. Eriyo declared that she was not privy to the credit because it was done before her employment.
Led by the prosecution counsel, Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), Eriyor said she signed off the account opening forms for Petrosan and Resolution Trust Ltd, owned by one Peter Ololo on December 24, 2007, after the said loan had been granted to the companies.
She stunned the court when her earlier evidence was contradicted by the lead defence counsel, Chief Anthony Idigbe (SAN), who presented a statement by Eriyor to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), wherein Eriyo said she resumed work at the bank on November 2007.
The statement, which contradicted her testimony on the date of employment, was admitted in evidence by the court after the trial judge, Lateefah Okunnu, read it and marked as Exhibit P135.
Eriyor, in her testimony confirmed the existence of a deferment framework in the bank, which allows a customer to apply for a loan without an account on the understanding that the loan would be disbursed after the regularisation of the account.
The witness, upon further cross-examination by Idigbe, said there was a relationship between Petrosan and the bank before her appointment but denied that Ololo influenced her employment.
She said the transactions complied with the banking procedures because the designated officials endorsed them.
Earlier, the fourth prosecution witness, Mr. Waidi Gbadamosi, head of internal audit in the bank had in the conclusion of his cross-examination confirmed that the disputed loans granted under Atuche’s era followed banking rules and signed by the authorising officials.
Hearing on the matter continues today.
Atuche and others were arraigned by the EFCC for allegedly stealing the sum of N27.7 billion from the bank.