Kenyan ex-minister given hefty sentence for Olympics graft

·2-min read
Former Kenya sports minister Hassan Wario had pleaded not guilty (AFP/Simon MAINA)

A Kenyan court on Thursday sentenced former sports minister Hassan Wario to a six-year jail term or a hefty fine after being convicted of embezzlement at the Rio Olympics.

Wario was one of six Kenyan officials charged with abuse of office and the misappropriation of 55 million shillings ($545,000) during the Rio Games in 2016.

He later paid the fine of 3.6 million shillings ($33,000) and was released from custody, a member of his entourage said.

Stephen arap Soi, a former Kenyan Olympic Committee official who served as team leader in Rio and was found guilty of the same offences, was given a prison sentence of at least 10 years or pay a fine of 105 million shillings ($954,000).

He has 14 days to appeal.

"Both accused were entrusted with leadership to deliver Team Kenya to Rio, and to bring good performance," anti-corruption magistrate Elizabeth Juma said in delivering the sentences.

"They managed to bring good performance, but in the process the government of Kenya lost a huge amount of money and this brought bad image, especially when the story was aired through the media."

Four other officials, including the former secretary general of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) Francis Kinyili Paul, were acquitted in the case.

Wario and arap Soi, a former NOCK deputy treasurer, were found guilty of diverting money and kit from US sports equipment manufacturer Nike worth millions of shillings which were later confiscated from a house in Nairobi's upmarket Westlands suburb.

The charges covered allegations of embezzlement, the purchase of unauthorised air tickets, overpayment of allowances and expenditure on unauthorised persons.

- 'Remorseful offender' -

Wario, who served as sports minister from 2013 to 2018, was Kenya's ambassador to Austria when he was arrested in October 2018.

He had pleaded not guilty to the six charges levelled against him.

His lawyer Roger Otieno Sagana said his client was remorseful.

"Wario is not the same person he was in 2016. He's a remorseful offender... and had remained a law-abiding citizen after the events of 2016."

The country was also left red-faced during the 2016 Olympic campaign when athletes' team uniforms were stolen in Rio by Kenyan officials.

Despite the scandals, Kenya -- an athletics superpower -- recorded its best ever Olympic performance in Rio, finishing 15th and as the top African nation with a total of 13 medals: six gold, six silver and one bronze.

Corruption is rife in Kenya, with millions of dollars of public funds going missing each year.


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