Mandago accused of witness intimidation in Sh1.1b scholarship scandal

Uasin Gishu Senator Jackson Mandago was Monday accused of intimidating witnesses in the Sh1.1 billion overseas education scholarship case involving Uasin Gishu county government.

The lawyer representing the affected families, Mr Kemboi Kiptoo, raised concerns in court, alleging that the Senator has been engaging in activities likely to interfere with the witnesses involved in the court case.

Mr Mandago, who is the immediate former governor of Uasin Gishu, is charged alongside two other county officials, Joshua Lelei and Meshack Rono, with conspiracy to steal Sh1.1 billion intended for Uasin Gishu students’ education scholarships in Canada and Finland.

Appearing virtually before Nakuru Senior Principal Magistrate Alloys Ndege, the victims’ lawyer urged the court to expedite the case hearing, citing Senator Mandago’s actions as potentially intimidating and disruptive.

“We need to fast track the matter because the suspect, who is a powerful man, has been moving across the county in a manner likely to interfere with the witnesses. He has also been making statements that are likely to intimidate the complainants and the witnesses in the case,” said Mr Kiptoo.

However, the prosecution – represented by Senior Assistant Director of Public Prosecution Hassan Abdi – downplayed the claims, dismissing them as baseless.

Mr Abdi argued that the state is fully in charge of the witnesses, and that such claims have not been brought to the prosecution’s attention.

He suggested that Mr Kiptoo should liaise with their office to address the matter.

“The DPP is in charge of the witnesses and the sentiments of the counsel cannot override the position taken by us. Let him seek an audience with us,” said Mr Abdi.

In the case, Mr Mandago, Mr Lelei, and Mr Rono are jointly charged with conspiring to steal money from a Kenya Commercial Bank account in Eldoret registered under the Uasin Gishu Education Trust Fund between March 1, 2021, and September 12, 2021.

Senator Mandago also faces separate charges related to abuse of office, where he is alleged to have arbitrarily entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with various universities in Finland and Canada on behalf of the Uasin Gishu county government without the resolution of the county assembly.

Mr Rono and Mr Lelei face forgery charges, accused of forging a Declaration of Trust document regarding the trust with the intent to defraud.

The state has lined up at least 200 witnesses to testify against the three suspects.

The defense team, led by Mr Milan Bwire requested an extension of time to prepare for trial.

Mr Bwire stated that the prosecution had supplied them with bulk documents and that the defense needed time to go through them.

The court granted a one-month extension, and the matter will be mentioned on February 12.

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