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Published On: Mon, Jun 16th, 2014

N25.7bn fraud: Forensic expert absolves Atuche of forgery

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A forensic expert, Mr Raphael Onwuzuligbo, on Monday absolved a former Managing Director of Bank PHB, Francis Atuche, of the allegation of forging some bank documents.

Onwuzuligbo, an ASP, made the disclosure while testifying before Justice Lateefat Okunnu of an Ikeja High Court, at the resumed trial of Atuche.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Atuche and his wife, Elizabeth, are standing trial for allegedly stealing N25.7 billion belonging to Bank PHB (now Keystone Bank).

They were charged to court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), alongside a former Chief Financial Officer of the bank, Ugo Anyanwu.

A prosecution witness, Mrs Elizabeth Ebi, had earlier alleged that the defendants had forged account opening documents to cover up a N10.9 billion loan granted to her companies.

Ebi had testified that the companies, Extra Oil Ltd, Tradjeck Ltd, and Future View Securities Ltd, were not aware of the credit facility, as at the time it was granted by the bank.

She had denied writing various letters bearing her name and allegedly sent to her by Atuche, for her to sign to “regularise” the loan, after it was obtained.

The 11 signed documents were later admitted as Exhibits by the court after they were tendered by the prosecution led by Mr Kemi Pinheiro (SAN).

However, in his testimony, Onwuzuligbo, who was subpoenaed by the court, said forensic analysis carried out on the account opening documents revealed that they were not forged, as alleged.

The witness, who was led in evidence by Atuche’s counsel, Chief Anthony Idigbe (SAN), said the documents emanated from one source, after a forensic examination of all the signatures.

According to him, although pictorial appearances of signatures used in the transactions might look different, the scientific analysis depicted a master pattern, consonant with Ebi.

He said this was why it would be difficult to forge or simulate the signatures used for the transactions.

Making use of a video spectra comparator, magnifying glasses and other scientific equipment, the witness confirmed that there were certain similarities in the signatures.

He said, “though there may be different in sizes of the strokes and formations, all the signatures in exhibits P270 to P272 show that the signatures came from one person.”

Onwuzuligbo said that the master pattern was the key in every forensic examination, which went beyond pictorial impression to the individual’s habitual ways of signing documents.

The matter was adjourned until June 17 for continuation of trial. (NAN)


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