Rio scandal: Wario pays Ksh3.6m fine as Soi jailed

Friday, September 17th, 2021 10:53 |
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 walked to freedom last evening after paying a Sh3.6 million fine imposed on him by an anti-corruption court for his role in the 2016 Olympics Games scandal.

But his co-accused, former National Olympics Committee of Kenya (Nock) official Stephen Soi, was not as lucky, as he was bundled into a prison bus and driven away to start his 17-year jail term after failing to raise the hefty Sh115 million fine imposed on him for his part in the scandal.

Anti-corruption court Chief Magistrate Elizabeth Juma had handed the former CS a Sh3.6 million fine or in default, a six-year jail term after finding him guilty of abuse of office charges.

She also handed Soi a Sh115 million fine, or in default, a 17 -year jail term. This is after the magistrate rejected Soi’s plea to have the sentence suspended to en- able him time to raise the fine.

Wario did not, however, seek such prayers, perhaps confident that he would raise the fine immediately. Instead, he turned to Soi, who stood be- sides him in the dock, and patted him on the back, seemingly consoling him for the hefty sentence.

They were then handed over to prison warders who were in the courtroom, who led them to the Milimani cells as Wario’s lawyers proceeded to process the fine in the Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) branch located within the courts.

Shortly before 5pm, the lawyers walked back to the court’s registry with bank re- ceipts, which were stamped before they picked up the former minister from the cells.

He was greeted by jubilant relatives. Soi was, on the other hand, bundled into the prison van to start his sentence.

Sentencing the two, Juma said the of- fences they committed were serious even though they did not benefit individually from taxpayers’ money.

She noted that the two abused their positions by influencing the inclusion of three joyriders to be part of the Kenyan entourage to the 2016 Games.

“The court agrees that being first offenders and given Soi’s age, they deserve leniency,” she said, adding that she appreciated the roles they play in society.

Juma noted that Wario abused his office by allowing the three joyriders, Monica Sairo, Richard Abura and Edan Adow to travel to Brazil. The three were also paid allowances.

Pleaded for leniency

The court had dismissed Wario’s defence that it was necessary for two officials to be included in the delegation to correct the negative image the country had suffered over allegations of doping.

“I have also taken into account that by the time Wario instructed some individuals to be included in Team Kenya there was no negative publicity. It only emerged later when they won in Rio,” the magistrate noted.

“But they managed to bring good performance but in the process, the government of Kenya lost a good amount of money. This brought a bad image.”

The magistrate noted that Wario arbitrarily forced the three joyriders to be included in the delegation after obtaining Brazilian visas.

“The court is called upon not only to give a retribution sentence but also a restorative sentence to recover the monies,” she said.

The magistrate said there were aspects in the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act that are mandatory and the court had no option but to pass a sentence as prescribed by law.

But where the court has discretion, Juma said, she would exercise it judiciously. She said the courts have to serve justice “according to what the law says”, adding that the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act is clear on penalties for economic crimes.

For each of the three counts, the court directed Wario to pay a fine of Sh1.2 million or serve one year in prison.

Turning to Soi, Juma directed that he pays a Sh115,871,865 million fine, or in default, serve 17 years in jail for the offences of abuse of office and willful failure to com- ply with public procurement guidelines and laws.

In seeking a stiffer penalty, the Direc- tor of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji through Joseph Riungu had argued that; “A case serves its purpose when the fruits of the judgment are realised. Every person should be accountable to their actions.

"Given the amounts involved, the sentence given should act as a deterrence [to corruption].” Riungu further stated that the offences facing the duo involved colossal amounts of money and had been proved beyond reasonable doubt that they were corruption offences.

The prosecutor said that sentence meted against the two should be commensurate with the offences com- mitted.

First offender

Wario’s lawyer Rogers Sagana pleaded with the court to treat the former minister as a first offender who had been dropped as a Cabinet Secretary and later as an ambassador after he was charged in court. He added that he had learnt from his mistakes and was remorseful and was a law-abiding citizen.

“As you’re considering the sentence, we urge the court to consider a non-cus- todial sentence which mandates a fine not exceeding Sh1 million for each of the counts,” said Sagana in mitigation.

Soi, through lawyer Kimutai Bosek, urged the court to exercise leniency while passing sentence as his client was re- morseful and had not benefited from any money lost during the Rio scandal.

Bosek also pleaded for a non-custodial sentence for his client, who he said, was 65-years-old and was suffering from diabetes and hypertension. The magistrate gave the two 14 days to appeal the sentence.

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