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Tbilisi Mayoral officials released from court though detained later

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, July 1
Four high-ranking officials of the Tbilisi Mayor’s Office were released from court on June 30. According to the judge, the detention process of those individuals included various violations. The Prosecutor’s Office is demanding jail time for the officials. The office claims that there is a threat those individuals will flee the country.

The Finance Ministry’s investigations service, which is in charge of probing into financial wrongdoing, stated on June 28 that four senior officials from the capital city municipality were arrested and charged with embezzlement and misspending GEL 48.9 million from the Tbilisi Development Fund.

The detained individuals included deputy mayor of Tbilisi, Davit Alavidze; head of the Tbilisi Development Fund, Davit Avaliani; head of the procurement service for Tbilisi City Hall, Alexi Tabuashvili and Deputy head of Tbilisi's Krtsanisi District, Dimitri Chkheidze.

The investigation service stresses that the case consists of three episodes with all of them related to use of public funds for covering various expenses of the UNM party in 2011-2012.

According to the investigation, in November 2011, municipal official, Giorgi Sabanadze, organized the printing of salary plastic cards for 719 so-called coordinators of the United National Movement, who were fictitiously employed at the Tbilisi Development Fund (TDF), but they knew nothing about their employment and salaries. The plastic cards were distributed by Tabuashvili, the head of the procurement service of the mayor’s office on the heads of ten district organizations of the UNM. The sum withdrawn from bank accounts in this period is GEL 13,852,497

The second episode of the investigation begins from June 2012. According to the investigation, the defendants decided to nullify the plastic cards and took cash from the bank seven times, in total GEL 13,852,497.

In addition, the same persons signed a contract with two other Ltd.s for providing UNM coordinators and supporters with dinners before and during the elections, thus embezzling GEL 719,862.

All the detainees deny any wrongdoing. According to them their detention process was led with lots of violations and they had no opportunity to contact their lawyers.

The parliamentary minority claim that the court’s decision revealed that the Investigation Department of the Finance Ministry committed a crime. However, the process is not still completed.

Later on the day the judge made a decision on two months preliminary detention as a preventive measure for the above mentioned high-ranking officials.

Public Defender, Ucha Nanuashvili, stated that he will study the case, and the legality of the detention process that was carried out.

However, Nanuashvili stated that even without a further probe it “is very obvious for me that the way how these people were detained represents an infringement on human dignity.”

Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA); Transparency International Georgia and the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), said that supposedly there were violations during the detention process.

They reminded the Finance Ministry’s investigations service that under the criminal procedure code, the measures of freedom restriction and applying coercive measures can only be used in extreme cases.

“We call on all law enforcement agencies to refrain from violating the criminal procedure code in the future, on the one hand, and to investigate the facts impartially and effectively,” the joint statement reads.