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Diplomat, three Kenyans convicted of ambassador’s murder

The High Court in Nairobi has convicted a Venezuelan diplomat, Mr Dwight Sagaray, and three Kenyans over the murder of acting Ambassador to Kenya, Ms Olga Fonseca, ten years ago.

The motive for her murder was believed to be a power struggle over control of the embassy.

The fifth accused, Mr Kipng’eno Chelogoi — a security guard found in possession of the ambassador’s mobile phone — was acquitted. The judge found that there was no evidence linking the security guard to the murder plot.

The court found that the killers were paid Sh468,000 by a Kenyan named Ahmed Mohamed Hassan, who is still at large, to eliminate her.

At the time, Mr Sagaray was a first secretary at the Venezuelan embassy and the de facto official in charge.

Ms Fonseca, 57, was manually strangled in July 2012 at her official residence in Runda, Nairobi.

The murder happened less than two weeks after she reported to Kenya to replace former ambassador Gerardo Carrillo-Silva, who had left the country suddenly after facing sexual harassment allegations from embassy staff.

Among the people who plotted her murder and who have been convicted alongside the diplomat is Mr Moses Kiprotich Kalya, an ex-police officer who was set to join the US marines the following year, the court found.

The killers had tied the body to her bed with a ligature that was around her neck in a bid to make it look like she died by suicide. However, pathologists told the court that she had been strangled to death.

Justice Roseline Langat-Korir found that the ambassador was killed by three unknown men led by Mr Mohammed Ahmed Hassan, the mastermind who has never been arrested.

The court faulted the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for failing to execute a warrant of arrest against Mr Hassan, who was said to be a close associate of the convicted diplomat.

Justice Korir noted that Mr Hassan was a nephew to Mr Yusuf Haji, who was a senior government official at the time.

Prosecution witnesses said that at the time of the murder, Mr Hassan, a medical doctor, was influential in government circles and at the embassy.

“Mr Hassan wielded power and was known to government officials and staff at the embassy. He had shown Mr Sagaray photos of himself with Mr Yusuf Haji and former Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala. He was a well-connected individual with unlimited access to the embassy,” said the judge.

He and Mr Sagaray were reportedly opposed to the posting of Ambassador Olga to Kenya.

The murder plot was executed after four meetings held in four different hotels in Nairobi – Garden square, Muthaiga Total Petrol station, Java Gigiri and Maggie’s Pub at Kenol petrol station.

The meetings were between Mr Hassan, Mr Omido, Mr Wanyonyi and Mr Kalya.

Though there was no evidence placing Mr Omido, Mr Wanyonyi and Mr Kalya at the scene of crime in Runda, the court said they were involved in the plans.

They failed to dissociate themselves from the plot or report the same to the police, the court said. A confession by Mr Kalya, a former police officer, revealed that they were involved the murder plot up to the night of execution.

Ambassador Fonseca’s body was found lying on her bed with a wire cord around her neck, hands and legs on the morning of July 27, 2012 by a worker.

The court found that the four convicted persons killed the Ambassador as a result of a power struggle between her and Mr Sagaray. The diplomat was opposed to Ms Fonseca’s posting in Nairobi as he was interested in the plum job.

Further, the court found that Mr Sagaray and Mr Mohamed had already established themselves at the embassy and were against Ms Olga’s arrival in the country.

“From the evidence it is clear that the first accused (Mr Sagaray) resisted the taking of over of the Embassy by Ms Fonseca,” Justice Korir said.

The prosecution adduced 37 witnesses and 39 exhibits in the decade-old trial.

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