Keino spared Rio scam trial

Lady Luck yesterday appeared to have smiled on athletics legend Kipchoge Keino, fondly referred to as Kip— just as has happened for most of his 78 plus years— after he was spared the ignominy of standing trial for the Rio Olympics scandal.

But former Sports Cabinet secretary Hassan Wario, now ambassador to Austria, Sports ministry former Administration director Haron Komen and former finance officer Patrick Nkabu, were not so lucky. They were interrogated, detained and arraigned for the Sh55 million-graft scam that stained the 2016 Rio Olympics Games.

Keino, Wario, Komen and Kimithi Nkabu had yesterday surrendered to the police as directed by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji, however, detectives in a dramatic move, spared the athletics legend and will instead make him prosecution witness against the other suspects.

There has been mounting pressure, especially from politicians Rift Valley, his home region, for review of Keino’s case because of his iconic status and advanced age.

The four were taken into custody after surrendering to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) yesterday morning. Police said lawyer Cecil Miller accompanied them when they arrived at DCI at around 5.30am yesterday.  Wario and Keino were questioned for hours when they turned themselves in to police after which the prospects of turning the athlete to a prosecution witness emerged. 

Head of investigations at DCI headquarters John Kariuki said they were reviewing some issues in the case after it turned out Keino had not signed any incriminating documents. 

“He may have been part of the team that misappropriated the money, but there is nowhere he left his imprints. So according to us, he either never participated in the whole thing or was just smart. But he has quite a lot of details that could help us pin down the rest,” a detective privy to the investigations told People Daily.

The change of heart by detectives came hot on appeals to President Uhuru Kenyatta by some Jubilee leaders to intervene and have the charges against the athlete dropped. Some MPs went to the extent of offering to raise and refund any monies Keino is alleged to have misappropriated.

Soy MP Caleb Kositany and his Nakuru Central counterpart Lodepe Nakara had argued that Keino’s case is special because he is a well-known person and has contributed greatly to ensuring that Kenya is recognisable worldwide.

They also demanded to know why former Sports Principal secretary Richard Ekai now ambassador to Russia and Wario were given clearance certificates by both Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and cleared by MPs as prelude to being appointed.

Ekai and two others were charged on Monday over the same scandal and freed on a Sh1 million cash bail each.  Wario was in Vienna while Keino’s was in Mexico when the DPP Haji ordered that they be arraigned in court.

Keino is former long-serving National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) President.

Upon DPPs directive, the court directed Wario to appear in court alongside Keino and the other two at 8.30am to take plea. 

Wario and Keino arrived from abroad on Wednesday evening ahead of the session with police.  When they arrived at DCI, the two were taken in for processing, their fingerprints taken and informed they were under arrest.

On Monday, Anti-Corruption Court magistrate Douglas Ogoti directed the two to present themselves to DCI by 6am yesterday. Wario is to face six counts of abuse of office.

They also face four counts of willful failure to comply with laws relating to the management of public funds contrary to the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act, 2003.

“During the Rio Olympics, the government set aside Sh544 million to facilitate athletes participating in the games. Unfortunately, part of the funds was mismanaged thus denying athletes proper facilitation,” said the DPP.

DPP said upon independent review and consideration of the evidence contained in the inquiry file, he was satisfied there is sufficient evidence to charge the suspects for misappropriation.

The suspects are accused of embezzling Sh22.5 million, purchasing air tickets which were not utilised amounting to Sh16.8 million and over payment of allowances amounting to Sh15.9 million.

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