MONROVIA – Prominent Liberian businessman, Cllr. George B. Kailondo, Chief Executive Officer of Kailondo Petroleum, Inc has won a major landmark case against the Guaranty Trust Bank at the Civil Law Court of Monrovia, for the GT Bank withdrawing monies on diverse occasions from his account without authorization. The plaintiff claimed damages of a “minimum of USD 2.5m, the genesis of the case being rooted in a depositor’s contract with the GT Bank.
According to the verdict handed down in the case where the defendant management through its legal counsels, waived their constitutional and statutory right to trial by jury, the case was therefore tried by the Presiding Judge, serving as trial of fact and jury de facto, in which the court made an affirmative determination on whether or not the prosecution proved the crimes of Theft of property, Misapplication of Entrusted Property and Criminal Conspiracy, insisting that the prosecution proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt with the corroborating testimonies of its witnesses.
“Finally, this Court says on the issue of whether or not the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant Bank did do and commit the crimes of Theft of Property, Misapplication of Entrusted Property and Criminal Conspiracy, this Court responds resoundingly in the affirmative. This Court further asserts that there is overwhelming evidence which connects the Defendant Management to the aforementioned crimes for which the Bank was indicted”, the verdict read.
Prior to the commencement of the trial, GT Bank by and through its legal counsels, filed a six-count Motion to dismiss the indictment for lack of subject matter jurisdiction citing Leigh Parker vs Internal Bank Ltd, decided May 11, 2007”, as Movant’s reliance. Prosecution however resisted the said motion to which the court ruled and denied Movant’s Motion to Dismiss Indictment.
According to summary of facts from the court obtained by The Analyst, Kailondo, being the plaintiff, had alleged that he had a banking relationship with the GT Bank, being the defendant, beginning in December, 2014 when it established the three checking accounts including a USD account 0112605/002/001/000, LD Account 113150/002/001/000 and USD escrow account 01162605/002/5020/000.
He also alleged that he made an initial deposit of USD 2,000,000.00 and gave instruction to the bank through its Chief Executive Officer to be the only signatory for all transactions. He further alleged that from December 2014 to January 3, 2017 defendants and its officials and staff collectively and without authority from him, systematically withdrew from his account by debiting his account a total amount of USD939,852.26.
Kailondo also alleged that the bank extended a loan of USD 2,000,000.00, with renegotiated payment arrangements for its outstanding liability; that its CEO assume responsibilities to repay on behalf of a partner, ACE Global , an outstanding debt of USD 791,458.82 for which the parties executed a Novation Agreement for payment of the indebted in 24 equal instalments of USD 32,977.45 and he paid USD 384,255.64 in cash and USD 37,254.30 in petroleum products, thereby leaving a balance of USD 369,948.88.
“Plaintiff furthered alleged that it entered into a restructuring agreement of its loan which the Novation Agreement grew and that the Novation Agreement halting the levying of additional charges and set a ceiling of plaintiff’s indebtedness to defendant; however, plaintiff received a mortgage demand letter from defendant’s counsel claiming that the same amount subject of the Novation Agreement, USD793,458.32 as the balance due plaintiff, based upon which plaintiff demanded copies of its account records to ascertain its actual indebtedness to defendant. Plaintiff averred further that it commissioned an audit by its auditors, who found that defendant had taken wrongful action against plaintiff and falsely claimed USD 1,100,137.90 as plaintiff’s indebtedness to defendant and made several unauthorized deductions/debits from plaintiff’s account totaling USD 939,852.26.
“Plaintiff complained further that upon discovery of the defendant’s errors on its account, it filed a complaint with the Central Bank of Liberia, complaining unauthorized deductions from its account, that after a second letter to the CBL, it invited plaintiff and counsel, to a meeting but no results of the outcome of the meeting has been communicated to the plaintiff at the time of filing,” part of the summary facts from the court said.
Kailondo additionally said that the bank wrote smear letters to several banking and business institutions captioned, “Non-Compliant Delinquent Borrower’s Notice for Kailondo Petroleum/George Bobby Kailondo”; stating that there is no provision from the CBL Act or laws that empowers or authorizes private financial institutions to issue or circulate such notices, which damaged its business image.
The summary facts further have it that Kailondo alleged that the bank agreed upon filing of the complaint with the Ministry of Justice that it wrongfully withheld USD 10,000 from his account without any records of authorization and the bank refunded the USD 510,000.00 whereby he paid USD 77,000 against its balance on the Novation Agreement to him.
“Plaintiff further alleged that the parties set up a reconciliation team to review plaintiff’s remaining accounts and defendant’s claims, that each party sent representative to the reconciliation; that the records show that defendant had wrongly withdrawn plaintiff’s monies and was still indebted to plaintiff in the amount of USD 420,000; that it was subsequently discovered that debit of USD 50,000.00, USD 62,500 and USD 160,000.00, totaling USD 272,500 were illegally debited/withdrawn from plaintiff’s account.
“Plaintiff also complained that it suffered losses for lack of use of its money over a period of five years by the defendant’s wrongfully withholding, that the wrong withholding of its money attracted interest of 10% annually thereby equating to USD 725,153.99, default charges at 2% annually would yield USD41,629.06 for the five years; that the bank owes him USD 420,000.00 thereby summing to USD 1,186,782.45. Plaintiff also alleged punitive and exemplary damages of USD 1.5 m”, the fact summary concluded on Kailondo’s allegation.
On its part, the Bank denied the allegations contained in the answer and counter claimed the amount of USD106, 905.30 as Kailondo’s indebtedness to it growing from various transactions with the bank. The bank denied that Kailondo established his account with USD2,000.000.00; that Kailondo was the only authorized signature to his account; that it collectively or systemically debited USD 939,852.26 from Kailondo’s account without authorization; that Kailondo adhered to terms and conditions of credit facilities granted to him. It said Kailondo had alleged that several credit facilities (including letter of credit were granted and/or issued for and on behalf of Kailondo but he did not honor his repayment terms thus leading to the counterclaim of the unpaid balances due defendant.
At the end of the legal arguments, the parties rested with the production of both oral and documentary evidence and submitted their side of the case to argument.
According to court records, there was a lone issue which was the determination whether or not the prosecution proved the crimes of theft of property, misapplication of entrusted property and criminal conspiracy.
Quoting the law, the ruling from the court said that the law provides under Chapter 15, subchapter (d), section (a)(b), Theft of property, provides that a person is guilty of theft if he:, “(a) knowingly takes, misappropriates, converts, or exercise unauthorized control over, or makes an unauthorized of an interest in, the property of another with the purpose of depriving the owner thereof, (b)knowingly obtains the property of another by deception or by threats, with the purpose of depriving the owner thereof or purposely deprives another of his property by deception or by threat”.
On the second note the court said the law also provides in section 15.5 which deals with misapplication of entrusted property, citing thus, “a person is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree if he disposes of, uses or transfer any interest in property which has been entrusted to him as if fiduciary, or in his capacity as a public servant or an officer of a financial institution, in a manner that he knows is not authorized and that he knows to involve a risk of loss or detriment to the owner of the property or to the government or other persons whose benefit the property was entrusted for the violation thereof”.
Reading count 3 of the indictment against the bank, the court said, “That between the period September 9, 2014 up to and including the 15th of December, 2016, you defendants, Guaranty Trust Bank(GT Bank) Liberia Limited, by and through the Managing Director, Deputies, operations manager, executive director, Prince Saye, Comptroller and other corporate officers to be identified, knowingly, purposely, criminally and intentionally, did take, defraud, deprive and steal monies in the amount of USD930,500.00 therefrom Kailondo Petroleum Inc (KPI) by and through its Chief Executive Officer, George B. Kailondo’s checking account thereby summing to USD1,186,782.45. Plaintiff also alleged punitive and exemplary damages of $USD 1.5 million.
In his final ruling His Honor T. Ciapha Carey, Assigned Circuit Judge Presiding Criminal Court C had this to say: “Finally, this Court says on the issue of whether or not the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant Bank did do and commit the crimes of Theft of Property, Misapplication of Entrusted Property and Criminal Conspiracy, this Court responds resoundingly in the affirmative. This Court further asserts that there is overwhelming evidence which connects the Defendant Management to the aforementioned crimes for which the Bank was indicted.
“Wherefore, and in view of the foregoing facts and circumstances and the law controlling, it is the final judgment of this court that the defendant (GT Bank) is adjudged guilty for the commission of the crime of theft of property, misapplication of entrusted property and criminal conspiracy. The Guaranty Trust Bank (GT Bank) is hereby ordered to restitute the judgment amount of USD 420,000 to Kailondo Petroleum Incorporated by and through its President/CEO, George B. Kailondo, Sr within six months as of the date of this final judgment. It is hereby so ordered,” the court so ordered.