The failure of Judge Emery Paye of Criminal Court ‘C’ to determine whether or not ‘Bishop’ Manaseh Conto and ‘Reverend’ Steve Kettor have made their criminal appearance bond commensurate with the over US$900,000 allegedly stolen from Korea Trading Corporation Thursday left the Korean investor Hungchi Choi in tears.
Before yesterday’s hearing, Judge Paye had postponed the matter on two separate occasions citing poor health.
On last Thursday, he gave the two ‘religious leaders’ 72 hours (three days) to increase their US$468,336 bond to an amount that would be satisfactory to the court so that if the two were to escape, it would be used to pay back the corporation’s money.
The contentious bond was posted by Insurance Company of Africa (ICA), but prosecution’s argument was that it falls short of the actual amount as provided for by law for a bond of such nature, thereby asking Judge Paye to reconsider his earlier decision to free the two ‘religious leaders’ based on that bond.
The two pastors were indicted for their alleged role in duping businessman Hungchi Choi, owner of Korea Trading Corporation.
‘Pastor’ Kettor did not appear for Thursday’s hearing again.
It was based on that matter that Judge Paye issued the 72 hour ultimatum, which expired since last Monday, asking for the postponement of the matter to yesterday; but again failed to handle the case, leaving Choi to weep uncontrollably in the courtroom.
It all started when the parties, Choi and ‘Bishop’ Conto and Cllr. Thompson Jargba, Conto’s lawyer, seated in the courtroom waiting for Judge Paye to honor his own schedule.
After noticing that Judge Paye was nowhere to be found in the courtroom, Cllr. Jargba was spotted entering the chamber of the judge from where he returned and advised his client to go home, to the disbelief of the Korean investor.
When Conto and his lawyer left the courtroom and did not return yesterday, Choi who sat in his seat was heard asking, “Where is Judge Paye? What is wrong with my case, when he allowed the defendant and his lawyer to leave the courtroom without telling me anything?”
He continued, “What have I done to deserve such a treatment? Did I steal from the government or your resources?”
Adding, “I only came to Liberia to invest, but my investment has caused me a lot, and I came to the court for justice, it seems that my complaint is going nowhere. Even if the judge wanted to postpone the case, why couldn’t he come openly as he had done in previous hearings, but to remain in his office and tell the other party to go back home?”
The two pastors were accused of robbing the Korea Trading Corporation (KTC) of a vehicle and spare parts sale and rental services. Kettor was KTC’s general manager.
Hungchi Choi, who is the owner of the company, claimed that while he was out of the country as a result of the Ebola virus outbreak, the two men sold and rented some of his vehicles, raising several hundred thousand United States dollars, and converted the proceeds to their personal use.
He also alleged that the defendants rented some of his company’s vehicles to the US military personnel who came to Liberia to help in the fight against Ebola and the World Food Program (WFP) and deposited the money into the defendants’ established company account.
The defendants are yet to appear in court to say whether or not they are guilty of Hungchi’s claim.