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Corruption killed state agricultural program in 2006

By Salome Modebadze
Thursday, April 28
The state program on agricultural development failed due to state embezzlement. According to the information released by the General Prosecutor’s Office on April 27, the group of 19-member criminals admitted and testified to their crime. “The anti-corruption department of the General Prosecutor’s Office continues investigating the state credit-related issues while the first example of state swindle has already been revealed,” Davit Sakvarelidze Georgia’s First Deputy Prosecutor stated at the special briefing.

Sakvarelidze worried that the money defined by the state budget for grain-seeding development in the regions in 2006 was used for illegal alcohol production. Agro Group, which had received GEL 1 300 000 in the frames of the cheap credits state program for agricultural benefit, misused these monies for their private alcohol business development.

Everything started on July 30, 2006 when the Georgian Government distributed GEL 6 500 000 among several companies including Agro Group which took responsibility for corn import for agricultural benefit. The company which was then chaired by Temur Devidze imported seeds from Russia and Ukraine via Poti port for further distribution to Georgian regions. But as a matter of a fact the grain was taken to Kaspi and Gurjaani ethyl spirit factories and used for producing illegal alcoholic drinks for illegal markets.

Agro Group had to cover the part of their seven-year credit by 2009. The Ministry of Agriculture was periodically provided with the wrong information about the program developments while not one single GEL had ever been paid to the state budget by the company. “This all became the reason why the Ministry of Agriculture addressed the Prosecutor’s Office for the investigation,” Salome Chkheidze, Chairwoman of Legal Department of the Ministry told the media.

This is not the only case of indecency carried out by the company. Several of their regional employees complained that they had been serving the company for two years on a periodic salary. Worrying about their poor living conditions, these people claimed that they had addressed the company officials for the debt several times but with no reply. In addition, they were deprived of all necessary documents which could be used as evidence of their work.

9 participants of the criminal triangle have been detained and may face from 8 to 12 years of imprisonment, but others who agreed on cooperation with the investigation were released on bail. The state swindle carried out by Agro Group meant the country was still dependent on imported corn, while state credits were wasted for a non-relevant purpose and the state project encouraging agricultural development failed.