Prosecutor lines up 202 witnesses against Mandago, two co-accused

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

The government has lined up 202 witnesses against Uasin Gishu Senator Jackson Mandago and his two co-accused in the Sh1.1 billion Finland Education Programme scandal case.

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) also supplied the court in Nakuru with 20 documentary evidence and exhibits to be used in the trial against Mandago, Meshack Rono and Joshua Lelei.

Rono is the Deputy Director of the County Education Revolving Fund and Trustee, while Lelei is a county official.

Prosecutor Angeline Chinga told Senior Principal Magistrate Peter Ndege that an inventory of documents and statements for the case had been signed.

“The prosecution has supplied the court and the defence with a list of 202 witnesses and 20 documents and statements it will rely on during the trial,” Ms Chinga said in her submission during the pre-trial conference.

Among the listed documents were a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Tampere University and the county government of Uasin Gishu.

Bank statements

The prosecution will also rely on minutes of April 23, 2021, Declaration of Trust and KCB account opening documents and bank statements of Uasin Gishu overseas education trust.

“The prosecution will submit appointment letters for the county’s overseas education secretariat and adverts by the county government,” read the inventory in part.

Appointment letters for Rono and Lelei, MoU between Sternberg College and the county government, will also form part of the exhibits in the case, the court heard.

According to Chinga, the prosecution also supplied the court and the defence with a MoU between Canadian University and the county government and a report by a task force on overseas education programs.

The prosecution has in its possession, deposit slips and acceptance letters for each of the 180 complainants.

“Documents in respect of Rift Ventures Safaris, including invoices, correspondents between the county government, air tickets and instruction to the bank by trustees of the county overseas education have also been made available,” read the inventory list.

Other documents include a list of students studying in various universities in Finland and Canada, cash deposit receipts and a list of parents seeking refunds from the county government.

The prosecution also supplied the defence team with the charge sheet and a forensic document examiner’s report and exhibit memo.

In response, Mandago’s lawyer, Miller Bwire, prayed for 60 days to prepare for trial.

He said the documents supplied were in bulk and required time to go through them.

“We also need to go through statements of all the 202 witnesses lined up to testify in court, and 60 days will be sufficient,” said Bwire.

Chinga did not object to the 60 days, and the court granted Mandago and his co-accused 60 days to prepare for trial. Ndege also extended the bail terms of Sh500,000 for the accused persons.

Mandago and his co-accused persons have denied ten charges of conspiracy to steal, stealing, abuse of office and forgery in the Finland education programme fiasco.

Chief officer

The three were to be charged alongside Joseph Maritim, the immediate former Chief Officer of Youth and Sports, but since he is abroad, the prosecution amended the charge sheet and removed his name.

Maritim will be charged separately once he returns to Kenya.

The charge sheet states that the senator and the  two conspired to steal the Sh1.1 billion from KCB Bank in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu, on the dates 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.

Mandago also faces three charges of abuse of office when he was the governor.

Between March 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022, Mandago allegedly entered into an MoU with universities in Finland and Canada on behalf of his government, without approval from the county assembly.

Within the same year, Mandago is alleged to have misrepresented that the county was offering full scholarships to students to study in Finland and Canada.

Rono and Lelei are accused of stealing Sh56.5 million from the KCB Eldoret Branch between June 2021 and September 12, 2022.

Rono is also accused of stealing Sh26.56 million from the overseas account between June 15, 2021, and September 5, 2022, while Lelei is said to have stolen Sh4.8 million between August 12, 2021, and September 12, 2022.

“The falsely misrepresenting to KCB that the overseas education trust account was being opened for the county government on May 21, 2021,” read the charge sheet.

They are further alleged to have forged a declaration of trust on May 6, 2021, at an unknown place and minutes of Uasin Gishu Overseas Education Trust, purporting it to be a genuine document.

The case will be mentioned on January 15, 2024.

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