EFCC, Utomi disagree over loans granted by Atuche

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Friday faulted Prof. Pat Utomi’s testimony that Bank PHB’s Board of Directors ratified some loan facilities granted by the bank’s former Managing Director, Francis Atuche.

Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), Counsel to the EFCC, faulted the claim while cross-examining Utomi, a former Executive Director of Bank PHB, before an Ikeja High Court.

Utomi is the first defence witness in the trial of Atuche and his wife, Elizabeth.

The couple is being prosecuted alongside a former Chief Financial Officer of the bank, Ugo Anyanwu, before Justice Lateefat Okunnu.

They were charged to court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly stealing N25.7 billion belonging to Bank PHB (now Keystone Bank).

Utomi had on Monday testified that the N100 billion loan facilities granted to some companies were ratified by the board members at a meeting held on July 9, 2008.

Cross-examining the witness, Pinheiro argued that another board of directors meeting held on Aug.25, 2010, indicated that the loans were never ratified. “The same board questioned the facility and denied knowledge of the ratification,‚Äô‚Äô he said.

Pinheiro said that the purposes for which the loans were obtained were not contained in the minutes of meeting Utomi tendered before the court.

He said that the purported ratification was approved by Utomi and other board members because they had obtained loans directly and indirectly from the bank.

Pinheiro said that Utomi obtained personal loans of N40 million and N10 million in three separate instances from Bank PHB during Atuche’s tenure.

According to him, a company, UT Roads Maintenance Ltd., where Utomi was the Executive Chairman, was granted a N5 million loan facility.

He said that Consolidated Business Support Ltd., owned by another board member, Ifeanyinwa Osime, was granted almost one billion naira loan. “As a result of the assistance, your independence as a director was impaired‚Äô‚Äô Pinheiro claimed.

He said that Utomi had not fully repaid some of the loans and had been sued by the bank over the non-payment.

Responding, Utomi insisted that the board ratified the loans following the presentation of the bank’s credit committee.

He also denied being indebted to the bank, adding that he had filed a counter-suit to that effect. “It is my right as a citizen to take facility from any bank. The records will show that I had paid more than N20 million of the N40 million loan before Bank PHB was stolen. So, I consider it a substantial injustice that you stole over a billion from me and I will now be paying you back,” he said.

Utomi, a former Chairman of the Corporate Governance Committee of Bank PHB, said some of the loans were obtained to support young businesses. “I provided guarantee of not more than N5 million overdrafts for many young businesses under the Business Angel Rules,” he said.

He also denied Pinheiro’s claim that his cousin, Emmanuel Utomi, had collected N4 million from Claremount Management Ltd. account on his behalf.

The matter was adjourned till Oct.3 for continuation of trial.

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