‘Bishop’ Manasseh Conto, who is being tried along with Stephen Kettor for allegedly duping a Korean businessman of US$134,000 from a vehicle rental contract with the World Food Program (WFP), has told Criminal Court ‘C’ that he actually received an unspecified amount from the arrangement.
Conto claimed that he received his share of the US$134,000 from co-defendant Stephen Kettor, based on a tripartite agreement involving his company, SACS Group, the WFP, and Korea Trading Corporation that was managed by ‘Pastor’ Kettor.
The two men are members of the International Mission for Today Church located in New Kru Town, Monrovia.
Hungchi Choi, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Korea Trading Corporation (KTC), during his testimony, alleged that the defendants through his then general manager, Henry Smith – who has been at large since the indictment – entered into a vehicle rental contract with the WFP valued at US$18,445 monthly for five months, from October 2014 to January 12, and up to March 2015, in the name of a fictitious company identified as SACS Group.
Choi also claimed that a payment of US$92,225 was made for the five months, out of which the UN agency’s employees demanded US$12,500 as kickback, but that KTC did not receive a dime because he was absent when the contract was signed and approved.
The contract was to supply vehicles to the WFP to facilitate the delivery of food and other items to victims during the Ebola outbreak.
During his testimony, Conto said though Choi was out of the country, he and Kettor entered into the contract with the WFP.
According to Conto, the Combi bus that his company used for the signing of the tripartite agreement was purchased from KTC, with an outstanding balance of US$5,000 yet to be paid.
Defendant Conto also claimed that he wrote a promissory note assuring Choi that he was actually going to pay the US$5,000.
“Before signing the WFP contract I told Kettor that I still owed the company US$5,000 and since Choi was not in the country at that time, it was impossible for me to provide the vehicle to the UN agency,” Conto claimed.
“Kettor assured me that if I were to agree for him to use the vehicle as part of the contract, he would deduct the US$5,000 I owed, and afterward he was going to give the balance of US$7,500, which are yet to be collected up to the present.”
Conto in his testimony did not say if he has paid the US$5,000, but insisted that the money was still in KTC’s Ecobank account, from which he is not authorized to withdraw money.
When Choi testified, he claimed that although the defendants used the SACS name for the contract and received payment through KTC’s Ecobank account, however, they could not account for the US$92,225 meant as contract fees for the five months the WFP paid for.
The case continues.