DPP dismisses claims of witness tampering in Finland scandal case

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

The Director of Public Prosecution has dismissed claims that Uasin Gishu Senator Jackson Mandago has been interfering with witnesses in the Sh1.1 billion Finland Education Programme scandal case.

Mandago, along with Meshack Rono, the deputy director of the county education fund, and Joshua Lelei, a county official, face charges in this case.

Victims' lawyer Joshua Kiptoo accused Mandago of making public statements likely to intimidate some of the 202 witnesses lined up to testify against him.

Kiptoo urged Senior Principal Magistrate Peter Ndege to expedite the case and schedule a closer hearing date to ensure justice is served before any interference.

However, the ODPP rejected this claim through Senior Assistant Director of Public Prosecution Hassan Abdi.

Abdi said the prosecution was overseeing the witnesses, and no such concerns had been raised.

“We are in charge of the case, and sentiments by the victim’s lawyer cannot override the position taken by the ODPP. The lawyer should liaise with us in case of interference,” said Abdi.

He told the court that all witnesses were prepared to testify.

Mandago's lawyers, Miller Bwire and Stephen Kibungei, echoed the prosecution's standpoint.

Bwire said the accusation was serious, and Kiptoo needed to file an affidavit supported by evidence of interference.

These claims and rebuttals emerged Monday when the court granted Mandago an additional 28 days to prepare for his trial.

Bwire said they had received voluminous documents and had not yet had the opportunity to review all of them. He requested 30 more days before the trial could commence.

Ndege said the defence's request for more time was justified, as the court needed to ensure their readiness for the trial. “The case will be mentioned in three weeks to give the defence team ample time to go through all the supplied documents but also to ensure the matter is heard soon,” said Ndege. He extended the bail terms of Sh500,000 for the three accused individuals.

The state has lined up 202 witnesses to testify against the senator and has also provided the court with 20 documentary pieces of evidence and exhibits for use in the trial. 

Mandago and his co-accused individuals have denied 10 charges, including conspiracy to steal, stealing, abuse of office, and forgery in the Finland Education Programme saga.

The charge sheet states that the senator and the two conspired to steal the Sh1.1 billion from KCB Bank in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu, between March 1, 2021 and September 12, 2022.

The money in the account was registered under the county’s education overseas university fees for students under the education programme. The case will be mentioned on February 12.

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