Sports officials face DCI probe over Omanyala US visa saga

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) is probing claims of bribery and inclusion of joyriders in the delegation that jetted out this week for the 2022 World Athletics Championship in Oregon, United States.

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Director of Criminal Investigations, George Kinoti, on Friday said his agency had been called in to investigate alleged inclusion of joyriders to the list of athletes, coaches and technical officers submitted by Athletics Kenya (AK).

Alleged inflation of the travel list from 80 persons to 112 apparently caused delays in issuance of US travel Visas to athletes, including Africa’s fastest man Ferdinand Omanyala who nearly missed the fete.

“It is really shocking… this is a shame not to the country but to the whole world… we shall not accept,” said Kinoti, while confirming the ongoing investigations, which he said commenced at the invitation of the Ministry of Sports.

State Department of Sports officials strongly denied allegations that joyriders paid Sh2 million each in bribes to be included in the list, in what has been likened to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics games scandal in which officials appropriated tickets, cash allowances and sporting gear that was intended for athletes.

Joe Okudo, the Principal Secretary in the State Department of Sports, referred the matter to Athletics Kenya.

He maintained that not a single government official had travelled to the US, explaining that only six Ministry officials are scheduled to travel, principally for a meeting next Monday with Kenya’s chief kitting sponsors Nike who are based in Oregon State.

The travelling party includes Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, her personal assistant, a technical person from the Ministry and a representative from the Sports, Arts and Social Development Fund.

Okudo maintained that the World Athletics Championships fall squarely under the ambit of Athletics Kenya as a federation and that the Ministry is currently focusing on financing and arranging Kenya’s participation at the July 28 to August 8 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

“The fact that I didn’t travel says a lot. Only those who need to travel from the Ministry are travelling,” Okudo stressed.

The PS said that the Sports Ministry was only involved when Athletics Kenya asked for assistance with Visas after the US Embassy said it needed the government to endorse the delegation.

“All athletes got their visas except Omanyala because some information was not disclosed in his application, which had nothing to do with AK. Omanyala is best placed to answer that,” said Okudo.

Athletics Kenya president Jack Tuwei, in an interview, said that was not aware of any official who had traveled to Oregon besides those cleared by the Federation.

Gen Tuwei said the travel delegation allocation was 80 persons but AK presented a list of 46 athletes and 28 officials at US Embassy for Visa applications.

“All the athletes were issued with the visas within one week save for Omanyala and Sheila Chepkirui. Some officials were not issued with visas, including myself, owing to the backlog at the embassy” said Gen Tuwei. “I am not aware of any other list.”

Omanyala was expected to arrive in Oregon just two and a half hours before the 100m preliminary round that gets underway at 10.30pm Kenyan time.

As one of the top-ranked athletes however, Omanyala will not compete in the preliminaries but will take part in the heats scheduled for 4.50am Saturday.

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