Kenyan Olympics legend Kipchoge Keino and former Sports minister Hassan Wario who are in Mexico and Austria, respectively, are ready to plead to corruption charges, a Nairobi court heard Monday.
Mr Cecil Miller, the lawyer representing Mr Keino, told Anti-Corruption Court Magistrate Douglas Ogoti that the two-time Olympic gold medallist was in Mexico to receive an award on behalf of a team of disabled athletes from Kenya, which recently participated in an international championship.
“Mr Keino will be coming back tomorrow. He has learnt of the charges filed against him by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI). He is willing to plead immediately he arrives. I shall surrender him to the DCI,” Mr Miller told the court.
Mr Wario’s lawyer, Mr Roger Sagana, said that the ex-Cabinet Secretary was in Vienna, where he recently took up his posting as Kenya’s ambassador to Austria.
Mr Sagana told the court that he would accompany Mr Wario to the DCI on Thursday for his fingerprints to be taken and to record a statement for formal charging.
Mr Wario and Mr Keino are among seven individuals charged with misappropriating funds meant for the Kenyan Olympics team in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
Those to be charged alongside the duo are Kenya’s Ambassador to Russia, Mr Richard Ekai, former Director of Administration at the Sports ministry Harun Komen, a former finance officer in the same ministry, Mr Patrick Kimathi Nkabu, former National Olympic Committee of Kenya (Nock) deputy treasurer Stephen Soi and former Nock secretary-general Francis Kanyili Paul.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) accuses the seven of embezzling Ksh22.59 million ($226,000), purchasing air tickets worth Ksh16.9 million ($169,000) that were not used, besides the overpayment of allowances amounting to Ksh15.9 million ($159,000). They also incurred expenditure on unauthorised persons amounting to Ksh6.6 million ($60,000).
Mr Ekai, Mr Soi, and Mr Kinyili Paul were released on Tuesday on cash bails of Ksh1 million ($10,000) and a personal bond of a similar amount each after they denied the charges. In the alternative they were granted Ksh2 million ($20,000) bond.
And as the lawyers fought to allow the duo to be allowed to present themselves in court, MPs were in Parliament defending Mr Keino and Mr Ekai.
Soy MP Caleb Kositany even suggested that he was ready to organise a fundraiser to help raise the money that the Olympics legend is said to have embezzled “so he is left free”.
“I have a problem with this Rio report, especially on Mr Keino. He is in his 80s and surely the old man deserves respect for what he has done for this country. We are ready to fundraise and pay for the millions he is being accused of so that he can be free,” Mr Kositany told journalists in Parliament.
For his part, Turkana Central MP John Lodepe said that Mr Ekai was cleared by the National Assembly for his current posting based on information from the Ethics and Anti- Corruption Commission (EACC) and the DPP.
“It is a shame that Mr Ekai was cleared by government agencies only to be implicated later,” Mr Lodepe said.
However, the MPs said that Mr Wario, who was the Sports CS at the time, should carry his own cross.
In court, an attempt by Mr Ekai to be allowed to travel to his new posting as the Ambassador to Russia was rejected by Magistrate Ogoti.
Mr Ekai told court that he was set to travel Monday night to Moscow, where he was to start his ambassadorial duties until January 14, 2022. He was to arrive there Tuesday at around 1.30pm.
The law requires that any State officer facing criminal charges should step aside to pave the way for investigations. For ambassadors, when they are abroad, they are immune to arrest and prosecution.
In the event that they face prosecution just like Mr Wario and Mr Ekai, they can voluntarily present themselves or be recalled by the state.
Also, Kenya can waive their diplomatic immunity, which would automatically give a leeway for their arrest even when outside the country.
Magistrate Ogoti ordered that Dr Wario and Mr Keino appear in court on Friday.