Kenya's Olympic team leader charged, denies stealing $256K
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) Kenya's team leader at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics stole $256,000 from government and sports authorities meant for the athletes' and officials' stay at the games, prosecutors alleged in court on Wednesday.
Stephen Arap Soi, Kenya's chef de mission at the Olympics last month, denied five counts of stealing money.
Prosecutors said he took $234,000 with him on a flight to Brazil without declaring it to customs officials, and which then went missing, and stole the remaining $22,000 in smaller amounts on separate occasions.
The money belonged to the National Olympic Committee of Kenya, Athletics Kenya, or the sports ministry, prosecutors said.
Two other officials, Kenyan Olympic committee vice president Pius Ochieng and secretary general Francis Kinyili Paul, appeared alongside Soi in a Nairobi court, and denied charges of stealing Olympic team uniforms provided by sponsor Nike.
Prosecutors this week dropped charges against a fourth Kenyan Olympic official, treasurer Fridah Shiroya. Shiroya is expected to be a state witness who will testify against Soi, Ochieng, and Paul.
The Olympic case is the latest in a long line of scandals for Kenyan sport, and particularly athletics, which has seen a barrage of doping cases involving athletes, and allegations of wrongdoing by senior officials.
Senior officials at both the Olympic committee and the athletics federation are accused of corruption, and the Olympic committee was disbanded by government because of the Rio scandal. The International Olympic Committee has given Kenya until the end of the year to reform its Olympic body or it could face a ban.
Last year, Athletics Kenya president Isaiah Kiplagat, vice president David Okeyo and former treasurer Joseph Kinyua were all suspended and put under investigation by the IAAF for allegedly embezzling around $700,000 given to it by Nike. The three were also accused of covering up doping cases for money. Kiplagat, the longtime head of AK and a former member of the IAAF ruling council, died last month. Okeyo and Kinyua remain under investigation.
AK chief executive Isaac Mwangi is being investigated separately after two athletes alleged in an interview with The Associated Press that he tried to extort bribes from them in return for organizing lenient punishments for doping.
And at the Rio Olympics, Kenya sent two track coaches home after they were embroiled in two separate doping scandals. One of them is the subject of a criminal investigation in Kenya.
On Wednesday, prosecutors released more detail of the allegations against Soi and the others. They said the $234,000 they accuse Soi of taking on a plane from Kenya to Brazil on July 20 was not accounted for at the Olympics. Soi was also charged with stealing $18,000 given to him by AK to pay for track officials' accommodation in Rio. He stole two separate batches of $3,000 and $1,000 from the sports ministry offices, according to court documents.
Despite almost constant scandals at the Olympics, Kenya won the second-highest number of medals in athletics in Rio behind the United States.
AP Sports Writer Gerald Imray contributed to this report.