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Witness absolves Atuche over shares racket

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BY ABDULWAHAB ABDULAH, ONOZURE DANIA AND MICHEAL OYEDIPO

A  former  Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB Asset Management, Mr. Benedict Omonuah, yesterday absolved  the former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB, Mr. Francis Atuche of complicity in the sales of over 630 million units of shares of Afribank Plc held by the bank in trust for Cavernton Helicopters.

The witness, who was giving testimony before a Lagos High court, Ikeja yesterday  contradicted the charge of the N4.2 billion theft preferred against Atuche by  the EFCC.

Atuche is facing a one count charge of alleged theft of N4.2billion alongside a former director of the bank Mr. Funmi Ademosu.

According to Omonuah, who was also the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Platinum Capital, an affiliate of the bank,  told the court presided over by Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo that the stock broking firm only sold about 320million units of shares valued about N8.7 billion contrary to the claims of the EFCC that about 830 million units of shares were sold.

Asked if it was standard practice to issue cheque in the name of Home Trust which was not among the original owner, the witness said that the client reserves the right to issue instructions on who should be the beneficiaries of the transactions.

He said: “As a professional stock broker, it is a normal practice for clients to say in whose name cheques should be issued. It is the prerogative of clients to say, issue cheques in the name of this or that person’”.

A mild drama was, however, introduced during the trial when the prosecution objected to the witnesses being cross-examined by the defence led by Chief Anthony Idigbe (SAN) on a letter written by Mr. Sunny Obaze, a colleague of the witness, which detailed the transaction in the Afribank shares.

Citing relevant provisions of the Evidence Act, he argued that the witness cannot be cross-examined on the document because he was not the author.

In his ruling, justice Onigbanjo over-ruled the objection raised by the defence and admitted the document as exhibit.

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