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Charitable acts turned into a scandal

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, November 14
The publication of a list of people receiving financial support from Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Cartu Charity Foundation last Friday caused a storm of controversy. Explaining that the fund’s activities have always been open and transparent, the Foundation denied they released the information themselves. Rumors have been increasingly virulent since the businessman entered the political arena.

As legally required, Cartu Charity Foundation publishes information about its activities once a year. In a reply to accusations after publishing the list, businessman Ivanishvili’s press service explained that according to law the confidentiality of recipients is guaranteed, and that the Cartu Foundation would never release the names of people, as Ivanishvili himself forbids it. The press service also emphasized that in 12 years of its activities in Georgia, none of the media outlets ever asked for such “precise and comprehensive information” about Cartu’s charity projects. The only information Cartu Group has ever released were recent extracts from their financial activities from January 1, 2009 till November 9, 2011, which were demanded by the National Bank of Georgia. After Cartu complied with this request, the details of the Foundation's financial information immediately appeared in the Georgian media.

The Cartu Group underlined the fact that the list of people supported by Cartu Foundation was also “inaccurate and fragmented”. To reply to questions raised by the public, the Foundation clarified that they award funds to persons with great public merit towards the country, according to strictly defined principles, but not because of any social or political status. “The fund assists theatres, cultural and scientific institutions monthly, while it’s up to their administrations to distribute the funds to their staff as a salary, without our interference,” the press service said on November 11, stressing that Cartu funds are meant to encourage public figures whose merit has not been appreciated by the State.

The thousands of laris monthly for outstanding public figures from the charity foundation were accused by some as the businessman’s attempt to "buy" political support. Doubting the objectivity of Ivanishvili’s charity, oppositional New Rights Party claimed that by publishing the list, both sides have been placed in an awkward situation. Pikria Chikhradze, member of New Rights, stated that on the one hand the detailed list of people and amounts they received from the Cartu Foundation have raised questions among the public, while on the other hand, the public figures mentioned in the list might somehow become willing or unwilling participants of the political processes.

Others reproached the Cartu Foundation for neglecting socially unprotected people although they have sponsored a number of orphanages, ensured medical examinations for people in Georgia and out of the country and have distributed monthly financial assistance to people in need. “And this is just a small list of the social projects worth 120 million GEL that Cartu has been carrying out over the last decade" according to the statement released by Cartu Group.

According to economic analyst Gia Khukhashvili, Co-Founder of the Research Institute on Georgian Development, Bidzina Ivanishvili has carried out charitable activities, not economic projects in Georgia. “Perhaps someone could wonder why some people received more money, and others less, but it was not Ivanishvili who distributed the amount personally,” Khukhashvili told Kviris Palitra newspaper on Friday.

“It would be very difficult to judge the situation only according to these lists, as there are lots of preconditions like the situation of force majeur. It’s a matter of dignity that a person with a satisfactory income shouldn’t be the beneficiary of a charitable foundation but can we judge Ivanishvili for giving money to anyone who asked for it?” Khukhashvili was appalled that people who spoke of Ivanishvili’s “dirty money” had been using money from the businessman’s charitable fund for many years.