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Handwriting Expert’s Absence Stalls Atuche’s N 26 billion Case

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The trial of a former Managing Director of Bank PHB, Francis Atuche, was on Tuesday stalled by the absence of a handwriting expert.

Atuche and his wife, Elizabeth, are standing trial for before Justice Lateefat Okunnu of a High Court in Lagos for allegedly stealing N25.7 billion belonging to the bank.

They were charged to court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, alongside Ugo Anyanwu, the bank’s former Chief Financial Officer.

In the course of Tuesday’s proceedings, the judge notified the parties that the handwriting expert had sent a letter to the court that he would not be available to provide evidence.

The expert witness, who is being called by the defence to analyse some documents relating to the transactions contained in the charge, apologized for his absence.

He informed the court that he was presently testifying in another matter at Onitsha in Anambra State and would be available on May 22 and 23.

The Defence counsel, Anthony Idigbe therefore asked the court for an adjournment and also to vacate the May 21 date fixed for the trial. He said “the witness is a busy witness. He gives evidence around the country and he has given assurances that he will be here on May 22.”

The EFCC counsel, Kemi Pinheiro however opposed the call for an adjournment as he argued that the absence of the expert witness does not stop the defence from calling other witnesses.

In the short ruling that followed, the judge held that the reason given by the defence for the adjournment of the proceedings was tenable. The judge also held that since the expert witness did not explain to the court why he would not be available on May 21, the date will not be vacated.

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