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State Audit Agency levies fines against UNM donor

By Ernest Petrosyan
Wednesday, August 29
The concern expressed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe over the mass fines and seizures of the Ivanishvili-led Georgian Dream opposition coalition members’ accounts, and the assessment statements of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Riccardo Migliori claiming that there was a “little part of Leninism in this electoral campaign”, apparently balanced the biased policy of the State Audit Agency (SAA) against opposition.

The SAA said on August 27 that a GEL 315,000 donation, received by the ruling United National Movement (UNM) party was illegal and the party must return the money to its donors. Meanwhile, it applied to Tbilisi's civil court to levy a GEL 1, 575,000 fine against the illicit contributors to the United National Movement.

“As a result of the administrative proceedings, the financial monitoring service made the decision to declare five contributors of the United National Movement as law offenders. Funds donated to the political union by them were considered to be illegal donations and their property was seized within the framework of the sanctions imposed,” reads SAA statement.

The case of one of these donors is treated separately and has been referred to the Chief Prosecutor’s Office for further investigation, as the state audit agency “found signs” that the donor was involved in a 'sham deal' while contributing money to the ruling party

The ruling party press-speaker Chiora Taktakishvili, said the following day that the UNM is ready to return to the donors the GEL 315,000, which is about 1.9% of the GEL16.65 million in total donations received from January to August 8, 2012.

She also noted that the National Movement itself imposes high standards of financial transparency on political parties, and once supported the law on political parties funding.

"However, during the law enforcement process, we were not insured from an error either, and the State Audit Office concluded that several donation were not complied with by the SAA’s request," explained Chiora Taktakishvili.

Allegations of illegal donations to the UNM first emerged when Channel 9, owned by Ivanishvili’s wife, aired the investigative report on August 19, claiming that 27 physical entities have donated a total sum of GEL 651,440 to the UNM are registered in the socially vulnerable persons’ database.

UNM ally and non-profit organization, Georgia Not For Sale, was not left aside by the SAA either, imposing a GEL 5,000 fine. As a result of the monitoring in the NGO’s case, the SAA accused Georgian is not for Sale in non-monetary donation in favor of the UNM. Giga Nasaridze, one of the founders of the organization, says that the organization is ready to pay the imposed fine, saying that SAA decision is fair enough.

Nasaridze’s organization which was launched in early July, is producing politically offensive ads against Bidzina Ivanishvili and the Georgian Dream on TV. After Maestro TV and Channel 9 refused to air the organization’s ads, the organization gave them to the UNM and the latter started placing them on TV channels as part of free airtime to which the ruling party is eligible under the election code. TV channels cannot reject an ad provided by a political party for placement in free airtime for which this party is entitled by the law. The SAA said it had requested the court to fine Georgia Not For Sale for a failure to indicate in its declaration this non-monetary donation to the ruling party.