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Statement from Badri Patarkatsishvili’s family

Thursday, January 29
“Recent reports indicate that the Emirates-backed development company, Rakeen, is now cooperating with the Georgian government to pursue re-opening Mtatsminda Park. Badri and his wife, Inna Gudavadze, had developed the Park at an investment of more than $25 million and first opened it to the public in the fall of 2007. The government later seized the Park in retaliation against Badri’s support of political opposition to abuses of power by President Saakashvili’s ruling party. It has remained closed since then and in a deteriorating state of repair. The seizure of the Park was without legal justification. After the event, the vice mayor of the Municipality of Tbilisi purported to justify the Municipality’s illegal actions on the basis of non payment of rent and failure to develop the Park. Those allegations were baseless and there is clear evidence to prove this.”

“Following Badri’s death last February, his wife and family attempted repeatedly to have the Park returned to their care. Mayor Ugulava has refused this, threatening that the Park would be returned only if Badri’s family agreed to turn over a substantial portion of Badri’s legacy to Joseph Kay. Kay had surfaced soon after Badri’s passing to claim control of Badri’s estate; despite overwhelming opposition by Badri’s heirs and compelling evidence that the documents Kay used to support his claims were actually frauds and forgeries. He nonetheless won the support of Saakashvili’s ruling group when he conspired with government officials to take over Badri’s TV station, Imedi; a popular forum for political opposition and widely known for its critical reporting on government misbehavior. Under Kay’s control, Imedi remained silent during the crucial election campaigns of 2008. Ugulava made it clear while pressuring Badri’s family to accept Kay’s demands, that Kay had helped the group surrounding Saakashvili at an important time and thereby had earned that group’s support.”

“Exercising the power over Badri’s estate that had been granted him by the Georgian court on 14 May 2008, in September Kay took steps to enable the government to further its illegal seizure of the Park. The company Badri had created to develop the Park had filed appeals in the Georgian courts against the government’s actions and these still remained pending. That company’s general director Gogi Jaoshvili reports being pressured to withdraw the appeals, and when he refused to do so, being coerced by the Mayor’s Office into resigning. Kay’s new appointee, a former associate in Ugulava’s administration, filed motions to withdraw the appeals within 24 hours of taking office. In this manner, the government with Kay’s assistance sought to eliminate all pending legal claims to the Park.”

“On 10 December 2008 Badri’s family filed an international arbitration claim against the Georgian government and the Tbilisi Municipality seeking the return of the Park and of Imedi together with very substantial damages. The arbitration is based on the government’s illegal expropriation of the Park and Imedi, and its conspiracy with Kay to keep these and other assets from the family. Although this case is only just beginning, it has attracted the attention of foreign governments and press already suspicious of the Saakashvili government’s suppression of the media in Georgia, its autocratic political maneuvering, and its attempts to cover-up failures in the recent devastating conflict with Russia. The arbitration will provide an international forum beyond the reach of threat and intimidation by Georgian officials wherein the government’s and Kay’s abuses at the Park and Imedi can be fully exposed, addressed and remedied.”

“The family eagerly desires to see Mtatsminda Park re-opened and further developed. While under their care, Badri and his wife had already brought the Park to world-class standards, and the family seeks now to carry on that work. However, the grave injustices that have been done to the family and to Badri’s legacy by the Saakashvili government and by Kay as its co-conspirator cannot be overlooked. Therefore, the family must ask all who might otherwise cooperate with the government at the Park to cease immediately any such effort pending the resolution of the family’s legitimate claims. No party should become complicit in the government’s illegal expropriation of the Park and thus aid in furthering this travesty of justice. The family is committed to re-opening Mtatsminda Park as a world-class attraction for the pleasure of Georgia’s citizens and tourists, but this cannot and should not happen under the shadow of government threats, deception and conspiracy that now blackens the Park’s image”.

(This statement, a commercial request, is published unedited in exactly the form it was delivered to The Messenger)