Jailed Rio Olympics Team Kenya pleads innocence
Stephen Soi, head of team Kenya at the Rio Olympics, who is serving 17 years in jail for abuse of office, has questioned the legality of his conviction by the anti-corruption court.
Appearing before High Court judge Esther Maina, Soi said his conviction and sentence are premised on the trial court’s misinterpretation of the law and evidence.
Through lawyer Kimutai Bosek, he also questioned why he was punished for authorizing payments in the Ministry of Sports yet he was not an employee of the Ministry.
“He was not the accounting officer and as such he did not have the authority to incur expenditure. Thus, he could not be blamed for the alleged loss of money,” said the lawyer.
Mr Soi was convicted on September 16, 2021, by the anti-corruption court in Nairobi after being found guilty of six offences. He was sentenced to 17 years in jail after he failed to pay a fine of Sh105.6 million.
Other than authorising the cancellation of air tickets resulting in a loss of Sh9.7 million public funds, he was also convicted for overpaying allowances to officials, athletes, and journalists who travelled to Rio.
His advocate told the High Court that he could not have committed the financial crimes because there was overwhelming evidence on record that he was nowhere near the scene of crime.
The court heard that the accounting officer was Mr Richard Ekai, who was acquitted by the trial court.
The lawyer said Mr Soi, a retired police officer, was unlawfully condemned on a finding that he had conferred benefit to his superiors at the National Olympics Committee (NOC), Dr Kipchoge Keino and Kinyili Paul, who served as the president and secretary general of NOC, respectively.
Mr Bosek further argument is that the trial magistrate, Elizabeth Juma, convicted Mr Soi on a misinterpretation of the law that he was discharging his duties as a police officer yet he was on an assignment given to him by NOC-K, an affiliate of the International Olympic Committee, whose functions have nothing to do with public duties in Kenya.
He also said his client was not in Kenya between July 20 and August 26, 2016, when the cash was paid out to athletes and officials.
He wants Mr Soi to be released on bail pending the determination of the appeal. The High Court will rule on the application on February 3, 2022.