24 December 2012

Liberia: Pastor Found Guilty of Fraud

Peter N. Toby — After a lengthy deliberation, the jury at the Criminal Court 'C' last Saturday emerged with a unanimous verdict convicting Pastor Matthew T. Sakeuh and his wife Plenseh of property theft for diverting US$1 million meant for the construction of a church into their personal account.

Pastor Sakeuh and his wife were accused of stealing U.S.$1 million on three counts misapplication of entrusted property, criminal conspiracy and theft of property, charges they denied earlier.

The jurors said in open court that they were convinced that with the evidence adduced in court by state prosecutors, the accused were guilty of the crime. They claimed that state prosecutors proved the case beyond all reasonable doubt against the couple. The jurors affirmed the verdict when they were polled.

Pastor Sakeuh broke down in tears immediately after the verdict apparently because he was disappointed over the jurors' verdict. There are fears that he now risks losing the ABC Liberian properties.

Defence lawyers took exception to the verdict but said they would wait for presiding Judge Peter W. Gbeneweleh's judgement that is expected in five days' time before announcing an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Prior to the verdict Pastor Sakeuh and others believed to be members of his African Indigenous Evangelical Mission (AIEM) were seen offering payers in front of the Temple of Justice Monument in an apparent hope to win the case.

But after the verdict which appeared to have sent a heavy blow on the pastor, several children and adults believed to be from the ABC International were seen giving praises to God for what they called "sounded victory" in the theft case against the convicted pastor.

The Grand Jury of Monsterrado Country in March this year indicted the couple on three counts of misapplication of entrusted property, criminal conspiracy and theft of property.

According to the indictment, the ABC International and AIEM had acquired 52.76 acres of land which Pastor Sakeuh sold to ABC and said deed was transferred to ABC.

The indictment further claimed that the couple received additional U$32,000 for 72.6 acres of land from ABC International as well as U$21,000 which was uncounted for.

Also U$6,000 was provided to the defendants for the preparation, filing and processing of the Article of Incorporation for ABC Children Aid Liberia.

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