October 19, 2018 / 10:05 AM / a month ago

Kenyan ex-sports minister charged over Rio Olympics graft

NAIROBI, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Former Kenyan sports minister Hassan Wario was charged in court on Friday with abuse of office over the siphoning off of funds meant for athletes who competed in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Kenya enjoyed its most successful Olympics ever in Rio, winning six gold medals, six silvers and one bronze, all in track and field. But the on-field achievements were blighted by allegations of corruption among Kenyan team leaders and senior government officials.

An investigation laid the blame on Wario, the sports minister at the time, and six other former senior officials, according to the East African country’s chief prosecutor, Noordin Haji.

Wario, who became Kenya’s ambassador to Austria earlier this year, was charged with six counts of abuse of office. He and two of his co-accused denied the charges before a Nairobi magistrate and were then freed on bail of 1 million shillings ($9,915.72) each. The trial will be held next month.

Prosecutors have said they also expect to charge Kipchoge Keino, a renowned former athlete who bagged golds for Kenya at the Olympics in Mexico City in 1968 and Munich in 1972.

Keino was the chairman of the National Olympic Committee during the Rio Games when more than 55 million shillings were misappropriated. He was not in court on Friday and prosecutors said they were investigating his role further.

Dozens of senior government officials and business people are facing various charges related to corruption, part of a fresh attempt by President Uhuru Kenyatta since May to crack down on widespread graft.

Critics accused Kenyatta of failing to deal with corruption during his first term which ended last year, despite promises to do so when he was first elected in 2013. ($1 = 100.8500 Kenyan shillings) (Reporting by Humphrey Malalo Writing by Duncan Miriri Ediiting by Mark Heinrich)

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