-Defense witness tells court
Defense key witness in the ongoing theft of property case at Criminal Court ‘C’ in Monrovia on Monday testified that he made Korea Trading Corporation (KTC) to pay the amount of US$2,700 every month to some World Food Program (WFP) officials as lobby fees.
Defendant Steve Kettor, who was then general manager of KTC, recounted how he paid the money as lobby fees for a four-month period (October, 2014 to January 2015), which amounted to US$13,500.
The contract with the WFP, valued at US$18,445 monthly for the five months, was intended to supply vehicles to WFP to facilitate the delivery of food and other items to victims of the Ebola outbreak in the country.
“I authorized the payment for KTC to win WFP’s contract by supplying vehicles to that entity during the fight against the Ebola virus in 2014,” Kettor alleged.
Defendant Kettor told the court further that originally, KTC and WFP agreed for WFP to hire 33 of KTC’s cars, “so this is why I paid the money as Lobby fees.”
“KTC could not afford that number of vehicles; I had to lobby in order for us to secure the contract,” the defense witness claimed.
Though, Kettor did not name any of the WFP officials he signed the contract to pay as lobby fees, his testimony is the first direct link of WFP officials to the theft case.
When asked whether Hungchi Choi, the chief executive officer of KTC was informed and approved about the payment of the lobbying fees, Kettor replied in the positive, adding, “what I did at KTC was unanimously agreed by the CEO and myself.”
However, Choi, when he first testified, alleged that Kettor along with co-defendant Manasseh Conto entered into the vehicle rental contract with the WFP valued at US$18,445 monthly for five months, and up to March, 2015, in the name of a fictitious SACS Group.
Choi also claimed that though the defendants used SACS name for the contract, they received payment through KTC’s Ecobank account, but they could not account for the total of US$92,225 as contract fees for the five months the WFP paid for.
The case continues.