The messenger logo

Government wants Kezerashvili extradited

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, January 21
Defense Minister of Georgia Irakli Alasania stresses that the former Defense Minister Davit Kezerashvili should be extradited to Georgia, stating there are a lot of allegations against Kezerashvili that “must be answered.”

Kezerashvili was detained in France on October 14, as he was about to fly out of Nice airport. Agency France-Presse (AFP) reported quoting a source from the French police saying that Kezerashvili was stopped by border police during an identity check. The police realized that he was the target of an international arrest warrant.

Georgian Justice Minister Thea Tsulukiani told journalists that she explained to her French counterpart how important Kezerashvili’s extradition to Georgia is for justice and fairness.

She said the Prosecutor’s Office is working on the documents that must be sent to France.

“As soon as France receives the documents, we expect the court’s decision,” she added.

Kezerashvili, 35, faces criminal charges in two separate cases.

In January of 2013, charges were brought against him in connection to the case involving alleged $12.3 million bribe for providing 'protection' to those involved in an ethyl spirit smuggling scheme between 2007 and 2012. Investigators claim that the smuggling scheme resulted in up to GEL 49.4 million in losses for the state budget.

In a separate case, Kezerashvili was charged in February 2013, along with Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava, with the misappropriation of state funds and money laundering. Tbilisi City Court ordered Kezerashvili’s pre-trial detention in absentia.

The prosecution claims that the case involves allegations that Kezerashvili, along with Ugulava, used state funds to seize TV Imedi in 2008.

Kezerashvili’s defense lawyer in Georgia, Shota Mindeli, calls the charges as “politically based.”

Meanwhile, Deloitte, International Audit, Consulting and the Financial Advisory Company published a conclusion. The conclusion was released through the media according to which in 2009-2012 during the period of Kezerashvili being the defense minister, the turnover of money on Kezerashvili’s accounts in offshore companies reached USD 1 billion.

In response, Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Gharibashvili stressed that the audit outcomes have practically proven the “public suspicions” regarding the misappropriation of a significant amount of state property, and strategic facilities.

Georgian Dream member Tina Khidasheli stresses that there are two “interesting moments” in the conclusion by the audit company.

“First, from his appointment as defense minister till his resignation from the post, Kezerashvili was not a businessman. No one has heard about his business activity. It turned out, however, that once he stepped down from the post of minister, he became the owner of 50% of shares in Lukoil LLC, acquiring these assets at a symbolic price. Back then we claimed that he legalized the illegal business which he already owned and ran, but being the minister he did not disclose that fact," Khidasheli said, and added that in those times, there was information on how Kezerashvili exerted pressure on smaller networks of oil companies in order to replace them by his own company.

Alongside the statements made by the ruling force, the parliamentary minority has tried to prevent Kezerashvili from being extradited. Alia newspaper has published a letter, where 27 members of the United National Movement appeal to the French side not to send Kezerashvili back to Georgia. The UNM members in the letter state that Kezerashvili is the main financer of the party, and that party activities would be disturbed by Kezerashvili’s detention.

UNM representative Levan Bezhashvili confirmed the letter in which party members asked French authorities to release Davit Kezerashvili.

“This is an ordinary warrant letter that we are unfortunately obliged to send numerously in courts,” Bezhashvili said.

"The members of parliament address the judicial authorities to refrain from the use of detention and extradition, one of the reasons being the political prosecution towards Kezerashvili. The fact that David Kezerashvili was one of the most active members of the UNM is not a secret, therefore addressing the French court officials with a warrant shouldn’t have been a surprise,” he said