NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Running great Kip Keino was given more time to report to police in Kenya after being one of seven current and former Olympic and government officials accused of corruption and misappropriating more than $545,000 around the time of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
The seven were ordered to report to police and appear in court on Monday but Keino, a two-time Olympic champion, was one of four who did not.
A judge extended their deadline until 6 a.m. Thursday and ordered they then appear in court on Friday to enter pleas in response to charges of corruption and abuse of office. The judge said warrants for their arrest would be issued if they didn’t hand themselves in on Thursday.
Former Kenyan sports minister Hassan Wario is one of the suspects and also did not appear on Monday. The other two who did not appear were former sports ministry officials Harun Chebet and Patrick Nkabu.
The case relates to money to fund Kenya’s team at the Rio Olympics. It was allegedly embezzled and misused by Keino and the others. Keino was the head of the Kenyan Olympic committee at the time.
The three who did appear in court were current Olympic committee secretary general Francis Kinyili Paul, Rio team manager Stephen Arap Soi, and former sports ministry official Richard Ekai.
They all denied the charges and were granted $20,000 bail each.
Wario is now Kenya’s ambassador to Austria, and Ekai was recently appointed ambassador to Russia, although he hadn’t yet taken up the post.
Judge Douglas Ogoti said the trial would start on Nov. 16, when the 78-year-old Keino — one of the world’s most revered distance runners — would answer accusations that he is corrupt.
Kenya’s director of public prosecutions announced on Saturday that the seven should be charged with multiple counts of corruption and abuse of office.
The decision came after nearly two years of investigating allegations of corruption around Kenya’s 2016 Olympic team.
Kinyili Paul and Arap Soi were previously arrested in 2016 over the scandal.
The seven are accused of embezzling more than $200,000, wasting more than $150,000 on unused air tickets to Rio, overpaying allowances amounting to nearly $150,000, and incurring tens of thousands of dollars of other expenditure on “unauthorized persons,” according to prosecution documents.
The court charge sheet listed 17 counts.
Keino’s cell phone appeared to be switched off on Monday. He hasn’t responded publicly to the accusations but a lawmaker asked the government to withdraw the charges against him because of his status as one of Kenya’s most respected public figures.
Keino’s gold medal in the 1,500 meters at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics paved the way for decades of dominance by Kenyan runners. He also won gold in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 1972 Munich Games.
He was made an honorary member of the IOC in 2011, was one of the first athletes named in track and field’s hall of fame in 2012, and was the first recipient of the Olympic Laurel award for service to the Olympic movement.
That award was given to him at the opening ceremony in Rio, at the time when prosecutors say he was involved in the embezzlement and misuse of more than half a million dollars that was meant to help his athletes.
By MUTWIRI MUTUOTA and GERALD IMRAY
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