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Court summons Mandago in Sh1b Finland education scandal

National
 Uasin Gishu Senator Jackson Mandago (left),Joshua Lelei and Meshack Rono at Nakuru Law Courts on October 2, 2023. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

There was confusion in a Nakuru court on Wednesday as Uasin Gishu Senator Jackson Mandago and two others were summoned in the Sh1.1 billion Finland education programme scandal case.

Mandago did not appear but his co-accused persons Meshack Rono and Joshua Lelei appeared before Senior Principal Magistrate Peter Ndege. Rono is the Deputy Director of the County Education Revolving Fund and Trustee while Lelei is a county official.

The bond terms of the Senator and his co-accused persons required them to appear before the court on July 1, to commence a four-day trial.

However, the court heard that they were served with a mention notice by the prosecution dated June 3, to appear on Wednesday.

According to the letter, addressed to Chief Magistrate Nakuru, The Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Renson Ingonga intended to make an application concerning the case.

“Kindly have the matter fixed for mention on June 12, as we intend to make an application under instructions from the DPP. All the parties and lawyers interested in this matter are at the moment duly notified,” read the letter signed by Prosecutor Angeline Chinga.

However, the prosecution team led by David Okach said they had not received any further instructions from the DPP concerning the alleged application.

The court asked the prosecution why they had the accused persons summoned.

“These courts are concerned. Can you inform us of the contents of the application that has led to the case being mentioned today?” asked Ndege.

“I have no further instructions. My instructions are limited,” said Okach.

Okach urged the court to adjourn the case until July 1, unless they receive further instructions from the DPP.

The defence team led by Stephen Kibungei said they were surprised by the mention notice and the fact that despite honouring the court, the application was not made.

“We participated in pre-trial direction and we were given July 1 as the date to come to court. We hope the same trial dates will be honoured and the prosecution will avail witnesses,” said Kibungei.

Ndege apologized to the accused persons for the inconvenience. He said it was improper to summon the three by a letter without the court’s permission.

He urged the prosecution to make no other application.

“The hearing will commence on July 1 as scheduled. We hope the prosecution will make no other application,” said Ndege.

Mandago and his co-accused persons have denied 10 charges of conspiracy to steal, stealing, abuse of office and forgery in the Finland education programme saga.

The charge sheet indicates that the three conspired to steal the Sh1.1 billion from KCB Bank in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu, on dates between March 1, 2021, and September 12, 2022.

The money in the account was allegedly registered under the county’s education overseas university fees for students under the education program.

Mandago is said to have abused his office between March 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022, when he allegedly entered into a memorandum of understanding with universities in Finland and Canada on behalf of his government, without approval from the county assembly.

Rono and Lelei are accused of stealing Sh56.5 million from KCB Eldoret Branch on dates between June 2021 and September 12, 2022.

The three are out on a cash bail of Sh500,000.

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