Former Sports Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario convicted over 2016 Rio Games scam

Thursday, September 16th, 2021 00:00 |
Former Sports Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario (right) and former Chief De-Mission for the Rio De Janeiro Olympics Stephen Soi (centre) at Milimani Law Courts yesterday. Photo/PD/CHARLES MATHAI

Former Sports Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario is staring at a lengthy jail term after he was found guilty of abuse of office over his role in the 2016 Olympic Games scandal.

Wario, who served in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Cabinet between 2013 and 2018, was convicted by the anti-corruption court of abuse of office charges which led to the loss of public funds running into millions of shillings during what is infamously known as the “Rio scandal”.

In a lengthy judgment, Milimani Anti- Corruption Chief Magistrate Elizabeth Juma said the prosecution had proved beyond reasonable doubt that the former CS played a role in the embezzlement of funds allocated to the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) to organise the games.

Also convicted was Stephen arap Soi, the Team Kenya leader to the games after he was also found guilty of three counts of abuse of office and two counts of willful failure to comply with laws relating to management of public funds.

Soi was found guilty of the offences for his role in the double payment of allowances to NOCK official Francis Paul and Kipchoge Keino, who were part of the steering committee.

He was found guilty of failing to disclose that Paul and Keino had received double allowances from the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) and from NOCK.

Took advantage

He was also found guilty of authorising the cancellation of air tickets resulting in a loss of Sh9.7 million in public funds.

The court, however, acquitted four other Rio Team Kenya officials including then Sports Principal Secretary Richard Ekai and sports officials Haron Komen, Francis Paul and Patrick Kimathi Nkabu for lack of evidence.

The sports officials had been accused of allegedly siphoning more than Sh55 million meant for athletes.

The magistrate ruled that Wario took advantage of his office to ferry three joyriders to the games disguised as part of Team Kenya.

The joyriders, Juma stated, received allowances thanks to Wario’s influence as head of the Kenyan delegation.

“There was wastage of money during the Rio fiasco. Wario did not have a mandate to allow the additional three people namely Monica Sairo, Richard Abura and Edan Adow to travel as Team Kenya,” said Juma.

Wario is said to have improperly facilitated the individuals’ travel expenses to the Games, causing loss of public funds worth Sh5,846,346. The individuals are said to have pocketed Sh1, 506, 391 each.

The court found that the CS had no mandate to allow the trio to travel as part of Team Kenya.

His move, the magistrate said, caused confusion in issuing of tickets and alterations of tickets that may have led to loss of public funds.

“Indeed, he has powers to authorise travel but nothing stopped him from introducing these members to the steering committee which he was part of and also co-chaired at some point,” said Juma.

The magistrate convicted the former CS on three counts, all related to abuse of office but acquitted him on the charge of engaging in a project without planning.

Wario and Soi were yesterday locked up at the Gigiri Police Station, Nairobi, awaiting sentencing this morning.

Juma also noted that the budget for the Rio Games, which was earlier set at Sh598 million but scaled downwards to Sh548 million, was “extremely exaggerated”.

“The court finds that indeed there was misuse of money during the Rio Olympic Games and that the budget for the games needs to be tailored,” she noted, though acknowledging that Team Kenya’s performance in the Games where it emerged number one in Africa and 15th in the world was commendable.

“However, it can be done on a lesser instance to save state resources,” she noted.

The three joyriders, the magistrate stated, were included in the Kenyan contingent by the Games’ steering committee on July 15, 2016, long after the first team had left the country.

Rio fiasco

“The additional names were included after they closed the accreditation… Clearly this was an indicator that the three were not part of the Team Kenya…” ruled the court.

She dismissed Wario’s defence that he did not have a hand in the procurement or cancellation of tickets and the payment of Green Bay and over payment of allowances in the matter. 

In his defence, Wario maintained that the so called “Rio fiasco” was a “all lies and bad publicity created by the then sprints coach John Anzrah who was dropped from the team and sent back to Kenya after falling out with the team’s officials in the Brazilian capital”.

While acquitting Paul, the magistrate ruled that the prosecution ought to have produced evidence to show Sh957,146 was paid into his account.

Paul was the Secretary General of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya. He had been accused of irregularly acquiring public property worth Sh975,146 from the State Department of Sports.

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