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Joseph Kay’s lawyer accused of drug smuggling

By Mikheil Svanidze
Thursday, May 29
Belarus’ security service charged a lawyer for Joseph Kay, the self-declared heir of a dead Georgian billionaire, with drug smuggling yesterday.

Emmanuel E. Zeltser, an American citizen, was arrested in Minsk on March 12 and initially charged with document fraud.

According to Zeltser’s lawyer Dmitri Goryachko, Zeltser now stands accused of illegally transporting medicines and narcotics.

Zeltser is a lawyer for Joseph Kay, whose name before immigrating to America was Ioseb Kakalashvili.

Kay claims management rights to the property of the late Georgian billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili, who came to prominence as a strident critic of the Georgian government and a candidate for president.

He accused Patarkatsishvili’s former business partner, Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, of plotting the arrest.

Kay also claims management rights for Imedi TV, a former opposition mouthpiece founded by Patarkatsishvili and shuttered in a government raid last November.

The TV station resumed broadcasts on May 5, but without news coverage.

The Georgian political opposition claim Kay is linked to the Georgian government. He plans to make Imedi, they allege, a pro-government channel.

“Kay is a close friend of [presidential advisor] Kote Kemularia and knows [President] Saakashvili, [head of the president’s administration Zurab] Adeishvili and others,” ex-defense minister Irakli Okruashvili said on a Georgian political talk show. Okruashvili faces a corruption conviction in Georgia and was recently granted political asylum in France.

The struggle for Patarkatsishvili’s fortune has been extremely complicated and highly politicized. The businessman’s widow was initially assumed to be his heir. But Kay, who according to some sources is a stepson of Patarkatsishvili’s aunt, emerged to say he was made heir in a will signed by the billionaire on November 14, 2007, just months before his death.

“When Badri passed away, on the second or third day, Zeltser told me Patarkatsishvili made a will in Zeltser’s office in New York,” Kay told Russian newspaper Kommersant.

Zeltser, Soviet-born with a murky past, apparently went to Belarus to sort out details of Patarkatsishvili’s assets in the country.

Berezovsky, Patarkatsishvili’s long-time business partner, told Kommersant he lent Zeltser his personal airplane to fly to Belarus but considers him a “scoundrel.”