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Court declines to release Rio Olympic convict Stephen Soi on bail

Ex-NOCK official Stephen Soi's bid to be released from jail on medical grounds pending appeal fails; court rules that he can get medical services from prison. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

The 2016 Rio Olympics scandal continued to haunt the games’ head of mission after his application to be released on bail failed.

Stephen Soi, who is serving a 15-year jail sentence for his role that saw Team Kenya lose more than Sh55 million, had his plea dismissed by Lady Justice Esther Maina.

The plea was dismissed on account that there are no exceptional circumstances to justify his release from prison pending the determination of the appeal.

“Although he has demonstrated underlying medical conditions, they are not enough reason to warrant his release since our prisons are well equipped with medical personnel who can treat him whenever his health is not good,” ruled Maina.

Justice Maina ruled that the only way to help Soi is to expedite the hearing of his appeal so if it succeeds, then he will be a free man.

Soi, a retired senior police officer, and former Sports Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario were in September last year found guilty and convicted for conspiracy to defraud and abuse of office.

Wario escaped with a lenient sentence of three years in jail or an alternative of Sh3.6 million fine which he paid and got released.

Soi was however jailed for 15 years or a fine of Sh115 million which he was unable to raise and has been in prison for the last four months.

Anti-Corruption Court Chief Magistrate Elizabeth Juma, while convicting the two, stated that their actions brought shame to the country.

Juma said that the complaints by the athletes of their mistreatment in Rio were just the tip of the iceberg of what turned out to be the Rio Fiasco.

She stated that it was embarrassing that Wario and Soi failed to provide leadership entrusted to them and that although the team managed to post good performance in Rio, their actions led to the loss of a huge amount of public money.

Soi was found guilty of failing to comply with procedures of managing public funds by authorising cancellation of air tickets amounting to Sh9,795,000. The magistrate fined him twice the amount (Sh19.5 million) or serve three years in jail.

He was also fined Sh39 million, being the double amount for authorising the purchase of unutilized air tickets amounting to Sh19.5 million or three years in jail and another Sh30.6 million as twice the amount for approving payment of Sh15.3 million as allowances to Team Kenya officials.

Soi was fined another Sh10.6 million, being twice the amount of Sh5.3 million he paid to National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) officials or serve three years in jail and Sh10 million being the double amount of Sh5 million he overpaid for air tickets to Brazil.

The magistrate ordered him to pay another Sh3.8 million as the double amount for the Sh1.9 million he paid to NOCK officials Kipchoge Keino and Francis Kinyili as allowances in addition to another Sh1.8 million as fine for the six counts he was found guilty.

The court stated that as the head of the Olympics Committee, Soi drew an exaggerated budget and worked towards spending the money without following proper procedure.

It the decision Soi appealed against arguing that the magistrate erroneously convicted him without considering the evidence to show all expenditure incurred by Team Kenya to the Rio Olympics were accounted.

He had applied for bail pending determination of the appeal arguing that he has underlying medical conditions which the judge said can be handled within the prison.

Soi served as a long time official of the Kenya Judo Association and vice treasurer of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK). During this period, he was appointed as Chef De Mission of Olympic Games (2008, 2012 and 2016) and a number of Commonwealth Games outings.

Just before the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Soi retired from General Service Unit at the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police.