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Former diplomat, three Kenyans guilty of Venezuela envoy murder

High Court finds former Venezuela envoy Dwight Sagaray and three Kenyans Ahmed Omindo, Alex Sifuma, and Moses Kiprotich guilty of killing his successor Olga Fonseca in 2012. [Kipng'eno Kirui, Standard]

Former Venezuela diplomat Dwight Sagaray blankly looked at High Court judge Roselyn Korir as she announced his fate.

The judge first narrated what happened when the former Venezuelan ambassador Olga Fonseca Jimerez was found dead at her residence in Runda.

Justice Korir said that according to the prosecution, Fonseca was killed because of a power struggle between her and Sagaray.

She then settled a contentious issue of whether Sagaray could be tried in Kenya owing to his then diplomatic immunity. 

Sagaray argued that he had not waived his immunity when he was arrested and thereafter charged with murder.

While dismissing his argument, Justice Korir said Sagaray's country had lifted his immunity after Fonseca was killed in 2012.

“The first accused was properly charged before the court alongside his co-accused as he no longer enjoyed diplomatic immunity,” the judge ruled.

The judge also found that he was unwilling to have the new ambassador take over and said although Sagaray was not in the meetings where the murder plot was hatched, he was an accessory as he, alongside a friend, Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed did not want Fonseca to take over.

The judge said that following the evidence produced before her, Fonseca was strangled on the night of 26 and 27 February 2012.

Sagaray was initially charged alongside Mohamed. The judge said that Mohamed remains at large and was the Venezuelan's administrator. 

The State then enjoined Ahmed Omindo, Alex Sifuma, Moses Kiprotich and Kipng'eno Kirui. It is Kiprotich who spilled the beans on what happened and said he was an ex-police officer. 

Kiprotich said they were promised that their wives will get jobs and that together with Omindo, they met Mohamed and he informed them that he had left Sh468,000 to Omindo to eliminate Fonseca but was unsure if he would do the job.

Mohamed claimed that Fonseca was a nuisance and had reshuffled the staff. The meeting was held at a coffee house in Gigiri.  

However, there were other two meetings with Mohamed and the trio - Omindo, Sifuma and Kiprotich. The two meetings were held in a restaurant in the city centre and at a petrol station in Muthaiga. 

“The confession makes material admissions on the meeting between Alex, Ahmed and Moses and the issue was killing the ambassador and the meetings were to plan. Mohamed was keen not to have the ambassador take the office,” Justice Korir said.

The confession by Kiprotich was corroborated by Sifuma who told investigators that he met Omindo who was with Arab-speaking nationals.

Sifuma said that Omindo offered him a job at the embassy. It is the same job that he dangled to Kiprotich.

“Alibi statement of the third accused corroborates the confession. It is also my finding that the aim of the meetings was to kill the ambassador,” the judge said. 

Acting ambassador

The judge found that although Omindo, Sifuma and Kiprotich claimed Mohamed used other persons to kill Fonseca, they were part of the planning team but failed to report the same.

She said that their narrative that Mohamed left them and they learned in the morning that she was killed after the meeting with Mohamed was unconvincing.

The judge however found that the DNA samples taken for forensic evidence did not link the trio to Fonseca’s death. The State also produced phone records as another link to the murder plot but the judge declined to use them as evidence.

The prosecution said that Sagaray was an acting ambassador and was to hand over to Fonseca, Sagaray and Mohamed lived together and the new ambassador had informed the staff that she was now the boss. This created confusion. 

The judge said Sagaray’s conduct indicated that he was not prepared to have a new ambassador. 

“It is clear that Sagaray had not prepared for the arrival of the new ambassador. He stated he wanted to repair the official residence. However, it was found that there were no renovations being done,” Justice Korir said.

Johnson Muthama, who had leased the embassy the official residence said Sagaray had lied to the then-new ambassador that the lease had not been renewed.

“I have found that the evidence by the staff of the embassy was probable. The evidence clearly indicates the power struggle in the embassy,” said Justice Korir adding that there was evidence to show that Fonseca had official documents and identification, therefore, was to take over the embassy.

According to her, Sagaray was at the time calling the shots, including being a signatory to five bank accounts. She said Sagaray was not a bystander to just watch Mohamed overrun the embassy. “It was shown that they were close (Sagray and Mohamed).”

“The evidence shows that he neither wanted to relinquish his position nor hand power. This power struggle provided the motive for Sagaray and Mohamed to eliminate Fonseca,” she ruled. 

Kirui was acquitted. He was arrested after being found with Fonseca's phone. He said he was a security guard and only found the phone around the residence.