Thursday, May 5, 2011

Crackdown on ex-bank chiefs: EFCC arrests Atuche’s wife, others

Operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday arrested wife of a former managing director of BankPhb, Mrs. Elizabeth Atuche. Her husband, who is also wanted by the anti-graft agency, however, reportedly escaped arrest and is allegedly at large.

Also in the EFCC net is Mr. Bayo Dada, an associate of ex-MD of Intercontinental Bank Plc, Mr. Erastus Akingbola, who was re-arrested on Tuesday in Lagos, alongside other ex-bank chiefs including Sebastine Adigwe and Okey Nwosu, ex-CEOs of Afribank Plc and FinBank Plc, respectively.
Sources close to the EFCC confided in Daily Sun that Mr. and Mrs. Atuche were wanted for allegedly stealing depositors’ funds amounting to over N100 billion, using a company allegedly owned by Mrs. Elizabeth Atuche, as conduit pipe. Reasons for the arrest of Dada, Akingbola’s associate, could not be ascertained as at the time of filing this report.
A mild drama was said to have played out at the Ikoyi, Lagos home of the Atuches when EFCC operatives who went for their arrest were told that the couple had travelled out of the country. But a source close to the team said intelligence information and a thorough search of the house led to the arrest of Mrs. Atuche from where she was hiding.

EFCC spokesman, Femi Babafemi, confirmed the development when contacted, but declined further comments.
The arrest, it was gathered, was effected at about 4pm on Tuesday, May 3, when gun-totting men of the EFCC numbering over 10 invaded the residence of Francis Atuche and without any warrant of arrest, picked his wife, Elizabeth.
More than 24 hours after her arrest and detention in a harsh condition at EFCC’s office, no charges have been preferred against her.

Contrary to EFCC’s stance that her husband, Francis Atuche, escaped arrest and was at large, a statement issued by Mohammad Al-Hassan on behalf of the Atuches, said he had been arraigned in a Federal High Court by the same EFCC and was yet to be invited by the commission. The statement said following his arrest by EFCC operatives in October 2009 after he was removed from office by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Atuche was granted bail by the Federal High Court and had never since defaulted on the bail terms, which included making himself available whenever needed by the commission.

“It therefore beggars belief that at a crucial period in the nation’s evolution when the President Goodluck Jonathan administration is determined to entrench good governance and rule of law, agents of government such as EFCC would embark on barbaric aspects that infringe on the fundamental human rights of law abiding citizens. “We are also not unmindful of the unseen hands behind this new wave of harassment and intimidation of the former bank managing directors who were unlawfully removed from office two years ago by the CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.”

It further said, “in fulfillment of their bail conditions, the former managing directors of Intercontinental Bank, Erastus Akingbola; FinBank, Okey Nwosu and Afribank, Sebastian Adigwe, were re-arrested on Tuesday, May 3 by EFCC. It is therefore clear that this latest bizarre assault is an orchestrated plot which EFCC is only playing out as dictated by a master who is desperate to arm-twist the former bank managing directors to sign plea bargain, which would make them guilty even while their cases are still pending in courts of competent jurisdiction.”
Daily Sun

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