The trial of ‘Bishop’ Manasseh Conto and his assistant, ‘Pastor’ Steve Kettor, accused of robbing the Korean Trading Incorporated (KTC) of US$155,930, is expected to begin today, February 22, at Criminal Court ‘C’ in Monrovia.
The case has dragged on for more than eight months beginning June 2016 when prosecutors challenged the two men’s bail that released them from the Monrovia Central Prison following Judge Emery Paye’s refusal to address the state’s concern before his assignment ended. Judge Paye has since been suspended by the Supreme Court for his alleged mishandling of a US$15.9 million case against the Government.
Conto and Kettor are accused of stealing US$155,930 from the KTC that the ‘bishop’ helped to establish in 2013. The scandal rocked the company when charges were filed against the two church leaders in 2016, the court record says.
Korea Trading Corporation, a vehicle sale and rental company, is owned by Korean businessman Hungchi Choi, and ‘Bishop’ Conto is the overseer of the Mission for Today Holy Church Incorporated, located in the Borough of New Kru Community.
Hungchi alleged that he was advised by his country to leave Liberia during the outbreak of Ebola, which he did, and left Kettor in charge of the company with 31 vehicles.
Kettor, in collusion with Conto, allegedly commercialized 14 of the company’s vehicles without authorization and sold five, generating US$155,930. Of this amount, Kettor apparently reported US$38,846 to the company.
Hungchi also alleges that Kettor underpriced the five vehicles and as a result the company lost US$13,200.
Furthermore, Kettor allegedly entered into a vehicle rental contract with the World Food Program (WFP) Liberia office for a monthly payment of US$18,445, which he collected for five months, from October 13, 2014 to March 2015.
Kettor received the rental money in the name of SACS Group, a company he created jointly with ‘Bishop’ Conto, the document alleges.
According to the record, the two men, along with one Henry Smith, who is yet to be identified, used the SACS Group for the sole purpose of siphoning money from the KTC. “It was a time during which the company provided car rental services to several customers,” prosecution claims in the court record.
“Bishop Conto, Pastor Kettor and Smith received through Korea Trading Corporation’s Ecobank account number 0061024724121001 the amount of US$92,225 out of which the company allegedly received US$31,320, leaving a balance of US$60,905 unaccounted for,” the court record claims.
The court record also alleges that Kettor, as general manager of KTC, entered into an agreement on behalf of his company with the US military personnel who came to the country to help fight the Ebola virus disease.
During the execution of the contract, Kettor rented two pickup trucks belonging to KTC to the soldiers and allegedly received US$17,850, paid US$1,000 to the company, and failed to account for the balance of US$16,875.
“Kettor, without authority, was involved in the transportation business with 14 of the company’s vehicles and generated US$32,630, whereupon he paid only US$6,526 to the corporation but failed to account for the balance of US$26, 104,” the indictment says.