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Finland scholarship: Mandago, two co-accused plead not guilty

Rift Valley

Uasin Gishu Senator Jackson Mandago escorted to Nakuru Central Police station. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Uasin Gishu Senator Jackson Mandago and his two co-accused have pleaded not guilty to charges in Finland's Education programme scandal. 

Senator Mandago was charged alongside Meshack Rono and Joshua Kipkemboi after the prosecution amended the charge sheet for the second time on Thursday, August 17.

The amendment was done to exclude the name of Joseph Maritim, who according to his lawyer is in Canada and is yet to be summoned by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) or summoned to appear in court to answer to charges.

Mandago, Rono, and Kipkemboi denied 10 counts of conspiracy to steal, theft, abuse of office, and forgery charges.

Senior Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Hassan Abdi said he was not opposed to the release of the three on bond.

Abdi, however, pleaded with the court to impose strict bond terms on the three. He said the three should not interfere with witnesses in the case and appear in court in person when needed.

Senior Principal Magistrate Peter Ndege ordered them not to interfere with witnesses and appear in court in person.

Ndege warned that the bond terms will be canceled if any of them fails to adhere.

He said that the court should not hear complaints from the witnesses that they have been contacted by the accused persons.

Earlier, The Standard reported that the three were freed on Sh500,000 cash bail each or bond of Sh2 million each with surety of a similar amount, pending plea taking.

The court sitting in Nakuru has declined to commence the trial of Mandago, Meshack Rono, and Joshua Lelei over the Finland Education programme.

Senior Principal Magistrate Peter Ndege said all four suspects must be present in court. The plea has been deferred to a date yet to be decided.

Joseph Maritim, the first accused person was absent in court on Thursday.

Lawyer Zephania Yego who appeared in court on behalf of Maritim said his client travelled to Canada on June 13 on a visitor's Visa.

Yego said Maritim has not been summoned by the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) to record any statement and was not informed of any investigation against him.

"He has not been notified he is required to be in court and only learned of his indictment on social media and instructed me to appear," said the lawyer.

He added that he has advised the suspect to come back to Kenya and face his accusers and answer to charges leveled against him. "He [Maritim] has organized to come back to the country," he said.

The lawyer earlier wanted the court to defer plea taking for his client to a date he will be available.

Further, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP), and the missing suspect’s lawyer have been granted two hours to lodge an appeal at the High Court after the trial failed to begin without all four suspects present.

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