Justice Ayokunle Faji of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, has adjourned till October 14, 2020, the trial of Francis Atuche, former Managing Director, MD of the defunct Bank PHB, who is standing trial alongside Charles Ojo, former MD of Spring Bank, for an alleged N125 billion fraud.
The defendants, who are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, were re-arraigned before Justice Faji on February 18, 2017, and are facing a 45-count charge. They are alleged to have committed offences contravening the provisions of Section 7(2) (b) of the Advanced Fee Fraud Act, 2004, and Section 15 (1) of the Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) and Financial Malpractices in Banks Act, 2004; and the provisions of Section 516 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C38, Laws of the Federation, 2004, as well as Section 14 (1) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 200.
When the case came up for mention on Thursday, July 23, 2020, the court sought to find out, how the prosecution and the defence would want to proceed with the matter in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prosecuting counsel, Kemi Pinheiro, SAN, noted that due to the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, there would be a need for both parties to produce duplicate copies of exhibits before the court, as part of precautionary measures to limit the possibility of contracting the dreaded coronavirus.
“This will help ensure that there will be a limit to the exchange of documents between counsels and the court, or witnesses, such that every party has its own documents with them,” he said.
No objections were raised by the defence team, as the court instructed both parties to always produce duplicates of the bundles of documents before the court as exhibits, so that all parties – the court, the prosecution, defence and witnesses will have their copies of the documents in the course of proceedings.
Thereafter, Justice Faji adjourned till October 14, 15 and 16, 2020 and November 11, 12, 19 and 20, 2020 for “continuation of hearing”.