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Controversy over “lobbyists”

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, August 23
The Georgian government categorically denies accusations made by lobbyists representing Bidzina Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream coalition that the Government has frozen the bank accounts of certain members of Georgian Dream and affiliated political parties. A special statement concerning this issue was made on August 21st.

The Georgian government claims that no party's account has been frozen and emphasizes that Georgian Dream has masterminded a complex web of illegal campaign funds, bypassing Georgia's campaign finance legislation. The government also claims that Georgian Dream coalition leaders have publicly stated that they do not intend to follow the laws regarding campaign finance.

The government stated that in several cases, the Audit Chamber has succeeded in building solid legal cases that have led the courts to fine Georgian Dream and its coalition partners for clear violations of Georgian campaign finance legislation.

”The Collection Order allows the National Bureau of Enforcement (NBE) to enforce the court decision without freezing the accounts, thus without interrupting cash flow or otherwise normal use of the accounts. Up to date, only a small portion of the fine-122,000 GEL- has been collected by the NBE through the Collection Orders. To be precise, the Georgian Dream has officially raised 730 000 GEL in the last month. Only 17 percent of it has been collected in order to enforce the fine,” the statement reads.

The authorities also stated that from November 1st, 2011 through July 25th, 2012, Georgian Dream raised over 44 million GEL, 26 million legally and more than 18 million through illegal contributions. Therefore a fine of 122,000 GEL (less than 0.3 percent of their total income) will not prevent the Georgian Dream coalition from campaigning freely and actively all over Georgian territory.

”Throughout the campaign the Georgian Dream affiliates have willfully ignored the boundaries of the law and have even publicly claimed to do so.” the Government stated.

According to the government the allegations concerning freezing of bank accounts are false and are the latest in a series of attempts by Georgian Dream to discredit Georgian institutions in advance of the October elections. The Georgian government called on all parties to refrain from the campaign of slander and to focus on electoral objectives rather than trying to preemptively discredit the outcome of the elections.

Coalition Georgian Dream called the statement made by the Government as “harassing” and emphasized that the government’s announcement was made after the statements of the representatives of Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) in favor of the coalition.

“PACE is named as the Georgian Dream’s lobbyist in the statement made by the government what is harassing and we think PACE will criticize the statement,” Spokesperson of the Georgian Dream, Maia Panjikidze said.

The Coalition also claims that more pressure is awaited from the Government. According to a statement made by a lawyer representing Georgian Dream, Archil Kbilashvili, it is possible that Bank Cartu and Group Cartu, owned by Ivanishvili, might be sequestered by the government again.

Bidzina Ivanishvili and prominent Georgian Dream supporter Kakha Kaladze have both been fined for the withdrawal of a large sum of money from their personal bank accounts without indicating how the money was to be used. Ivanishvili was fined 21 million GEL and Kaladze 17 million GEL. The one-week deadline to pay the fine given to Kaladze by the court has expired and the National Bureau of Enforcement has already started procedures to seize Kaladze’s property. The same might happen to Ivanishvili if he does not pay the fine by today's deadline.

Leader of the coalition, Bidzina Ivanishvili has already stated that he and Kaladze are ready to pay their fines if the government can conclusively document how the 80 million GEL Ivanishvili already paid was spent.

Concerning the fines the NGO The Young Lawyers’ Association emphasized that the ongoing actions concerning Kaladze and Ivanishvili are illegal.

“Such kinds of precedents place the reputation of the court system in jeopardy and negatively influence it,” GYLA states.

The Young Lawyers' Association added that that the court in its decision could not name or put forth any convincing arguments that proved that the actions carried out by the two individuals were administrative violations.

According to the NGO, the court verdict does not provide concrete evidence of illegal contributions. The Young Lawyers' Association cites lack of evidence that the contribution was undertaken for the benefit of a political party and if so which party received this sum.

The head of another NGO, Elections and Political Technologies Research Centre, Kakha Kakhishvili “beforehand forecasted” that the shares of the Bank Cartu and other property of Ivanishvili would be sequestered by the government. “The authorities will do their best to financially restrict their opponents,” Kakhishvili said.