‘Bishop’ Conto Loses Bond Appeal

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If ‘Bishop’ Manaseh Conto and ‘Rev.’ Steve Kettor do not make their criminal appearance bond sufficient, commensurate with the L$1.5million allegedly stolen from Korea Trading Corporation, they would go back to their cells at the Monrovia Central Prison, according to Judge Emery Paye of Criminal Court ‘C,’ where the ‘religious leaders’ are expected to stand trial.

Further to that, Judge Paye in his own description as provided for under the law, yesterday 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 in case they were to escape, it would be used to pay back the corporation’s money.

The bond that released the two defendants from jail 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’ on that bond.

The ‘religious duo’ were indicted for their alleged role in duping Mr. Hungchi Choi, owner of Korea Trading Corporation.

Judge Paye was convinced to change his mind yesterday immediately after listening quietly to the argument as to whether or not his action to free the defendants on that bond was necessary.

His response yesterday was in the negative. Initially, he had accepted the bond; but during yesterday’s deliberation, Judge Paye admitted that it was insufficient.

“The defendants’ criminal appearance bond is insufficient and they are mandated to make it sufficient within 72 hours, meaning three days period,” the criminal court judge declared, warning, “If they fail to do so, they would be rearrested and sent to jail until they make the bond right.”

In a kind approach to his decision, the criminal court judge asked the defendants to contact their surety, the insurance company, to increase the amount on the bond or for them to file a new one that would meet the bond requirement.

Before his decision yesterday, Judge Paye in a simple explanation about a bond, said a bond is intended to curtail extra financial burden of the Government of Liberia to transport the defendants from their cells to the court, while the trial is ongoing, and, also to prevent overcrowding of the prison, making specific reference to bailable offenses.

Unlike Conto, who has been present at every court hearing, ‘Pastor’ Kettor is yet to appear for his hearing, since he was bailed out of jail by ICA’s bond that was finally rejected by Judge Paye.

It is not clear what is responsible for Kettor’s absence from his bond hearing, although by law he is not forced to attend the bond deliberation.

The ‘religious duo’ jointly posted a single criminal appearance bond.

Conto and Kettor are both leaders of the Mission of Today Holy Church in the New Kru Town community

They 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 into their personal use.

He also alleged that the defendants rented some of his company’s vehicles to 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’s account. The defendants are yet to appear in court to say whether or not they are guilty over Hungchi’s claim.

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