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Case of the Ministry of Agriculture gets complicated

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, July 25
The misunderstanding concerning the case of the employees of the Ministry of Agriculture and the former agricultural minister, Davit Kirvalidze, is still in progress. It is still unclear whether the situation has a political or financial background and what might be the fate of the accused and Kirvalidze. According to the recent events, the situation has become even more complicated.

Based on the statement made by the Interior Ministry on May 1, 2013, public funds totaling 2.5 million were misspend while procuring tractors and other agriculture equipment as part of the state-funded program to help farmers cultivate their agricultural lands.

Head of one of the units within the Agriculture Ministry; Director of the State Research Center Agriculture Mechanization Institute; Director of the state-owned Mechanizator company, which was in charge of procuring tractors, and two of his deputies were among those arrested. The Interior Ministry also accused several persons of “pressuring” members of a group of experts, which were in charge of verifying procurement matters, in an attempt to cover up the misappropriation of funds.

Concerning the case, 7 individuals were sent to preliminary detention. Dean of the Agricultural University, Teo Urushadze, and Deputy Chairs of the mechanization company, Mamuka Ivaniadze and Besik Tetvadze, were released on bail.

Kirvalidze quit the position of Minister of Agriculture from the very beginning, stating that he will not be back until the investigation is over. He believes that all the accused are innocent.

After his release on July 11, at the press conference organized by the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), the accused Ivaniadze stated that psychological pressure was systematically put on him by the staff members of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Public Prosecutor’s Office “for providing evidence against Kirvalidze” and the whole evidence signed by him “was dictated by the prosecutor.”

The prosecutor’s office launched an investigation “over the possible pressure.” However, the office claims that it’s undoubtedly confirmed that the testimony of Ivaniadze in the case of the purchase of tractors was given in the conditions of expression of his free will, independently, by his own desire, without making any illegal impact on him, and all the factual circumstances described in the testimony are true.

“Realness and authenticity of the circumstances are defined independently by the testimonies of tens of witnesses, by the retrieved documents, items, including video materials and the whole set of other clear and convincing evidence matching each other,” the Prosecutor’s Office stressed.

The Prosecutor’s Office shifted its attention to the circumstance that the testimony of Ivaniadze, by its content, is of a admitting and disclosing nature, and the final revealing of the crime was clearly conditioned by his collaboration. Information provided in the testimony essentially differs from the investigative version existing at that moment, according to which, it’s undoubtedly certified that the carrier of this information was Ivaniadze personally, and not the investigator or the prosecutor.

GYLA claims that there are various controversies in the statements made by the Prosecutor’s office and the pressure on the involved individuals in the case has been carried out from the beginning.

The GYLA admits that “unfortunately the actions of the Prosecutor’s Office employees exceeded the legal frames and an investigation is ongoing through the methods that might reflect criminal elements. We know that there are some individuals left in the office preserved from the former period who’s actions are in question, however, the fact will not justify the actions of the Prosecutor’s office,” GYLA states.

Kirvalidze has been questioned over the issue as well. He refrained from delivering the details of the interrogation, however, emphasized that the “tractors were purchased through protection of law.”

Kirvalidze appealed to the chief prosecutor and the interior minister to investigate the case as soon as possible, in a transparent and fair way.

Head of the Elections and Political Technologies Research Centre, Kakha Kakhishvili, stated that there are lots of questions marks concerning the actions of the Prosecutor’s office that presumable will be cleared up during the hearing on the case.

“One will be able to give detailed analyses when all the evidence, witnesses, and materials are presented during the hearing” Kakhishvili told The Messenger.