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The News in Brief

Wednesday, March 19
Prosecutors summon Bendukidze for questioning over Agrarian University

Ex-minister of economy, Kakha Bendukidze, has been summoned by prosecutors for questioning in an ongoing investigation into privatization of the Agrarian University and its property three years ago.

Bendukidze, who chairs supervisory board of the Agrarian University and who has to appear before prosecutors before noon on March 18, says that ongoing investigation is “absurd”, which has only political motives.

Dmitri Shashkini, who at the time of university’s privatization was the education minister, has also been summoned by prosecutors for questioning.

Prosecutor’s office said in a statement on March 17 that the university and its property were privatized through “by-passing requirements stipulated by the law.” Prosecutor’s Office says that before it was privatized, the university, fourteen research centers in various parts of the country and their property were incorporated into a single entity and its assets registered and sold at far below the market price. Rector of the Agrarian University, Lasha Gotsiridze, was questioned by prosecutors on March 17.

In March, 2013 decision of the Education Ministry to cancel authorization of the Agrarian University triggered allegations against the authorities of political meddling in academic institution; two weeks later the authorization was restored. (Civil.Ge)

Georgia’s Refugee Minister visits Poland

Georgia’s Minister of Internally Displaced Persons from Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia, David Darakhvelidze has met with Poland’s head of the Office for Foreigners Rafal Rogalas during his working visit to Poland.

The sides discussed future cooperation between the two countries, which included a presentation by the Office for Foreigners on the integration of foreigners, refugee status determination and social support of returned immigrants.

The Polish side stressed the importance of Georgia’s European integration, particularly in regard to the visa liberalization process and fulfillment of Association Agreement obligations.

Rogalas expressed readiness to raise the issue of Georgia’s inclusion in the European Network of Asylum Reception Organizations (ENARO) with the status of an observer. An agreement about an exchange of experts was also achieved.

The officials also discussed current developments in Ukraine and the opportunities of refugee influx in case of conflict in the Ukrainian region.

The meeting was also attended by the Georgian Ambassador in Poland Nikoloz Nikolzishvili and representatives of the Refugee Ministry. (Agenda.Ge)

NGO founded by former Georgian PM to offer media training

A non-governmental organization founded by former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili is to offer training courses for journalists who work for Georgian media outlets.

In a statement on Monday, the organization, called Citizen, explained the plan, which will be its first project.

The NGO was founded by Ivanishvili on 23 January, 2014, and has as one of its priorities to develop the media. On February 4, Ivanishvili said that he will fund professional development of journalists and media monitoring programs.

On Monday, the organization offers media outlets to train their journalists. Everyone can participate in the project.

“Even though the organization has its own opinion about in what fields training is most important, we think that it’s necessary to get additional information from heads of media outlets, what they consider important and need their journalist to increase awareness about,” Citizen’s statement says.

Representatives of Citizen say a specific date and topics for the training courses are not determined yet. First they need to determine the needs of the media outlets. The number of outlets is not limited. The budget is also not determined yet. The courses will be conducted by local and international specialists. (Democracy & Freedom Watch)

Former head of Georgia’s special police charged with fraud

The Prosecutor’s Office in Georgia has charged former Interior Ministry official Erekle Kodua with abuse of power and fraud.

Kodua is former head of the Interior Ministry’s Special Operative Department (SOD).

Investigators found that on August 29, 2008, Kodua met Merab Robakidze, a prisoner who was arrested for illegal purchasing and possession of drugs.

The Prosecutor’s Office claims that Kodua offered Robakidze a plea bargain agreement about non-custodial sentence. In exchange, Robakidze had to buy two cars and give them as a gift to the government.

Robakidze agreed and with his friend’s help, bought two cars for USD 90 000. Investigators found that one of these cars, a Lexus GX 470 which cost USD 45 000, Kodua fraudulently registered in his son’s name. Later the car was sold for USD 20 000.

In 2008, Kodua bought a car from Toyota Center Tbilisi for his mother. The car cost USD 92 000 and Kodua bought it on credit.

The head of Toyota Center Tbilisi, Erekle Gurchiani, was brother of Giorgi Gurchiani, who was arrested for illegal purchase and keeping the drugs at that time. Kodua met with the brothers in his room and promised to sign the plea bargain agreement. In exchange, Gurchiani gave him the car he had bought on credit from Toyota Center.

Kodua also demanded another car for the government that cost USD 41 500. This car Kodua registered in the name of another person, later in his own name and at last it was sold for USD 27 000.

Kodua is charged with abuse of power and fraud, charges which may lead to 9 years imprisonment if he is found guilty. (Democracy & Freedom Watch)

All vehicles stopped on Georgian-Russian border due to adverse weather

Traffic was once again suspended on the Georgian-Russian border.

The movement of all kinds of vehicles was banned because of a snowstorm with low visibility along the Gudauri -Kobi section of the Mtskheta-Stepantsminda-Lars highway (Georgian-Russian border), the Georgian Transport Department told Trend on March 18.

The movement of trailers and semi-trailers was also restricted on the 136-157 kilometer stretch of the Tbilisi- Senaki - Leselidze central highway in a westerly direction in connection with the snowfall. Movement of other types of vehicles at this section is permitted.

Travel was also restricted on the 90-100 kilometer section of the Zugdidi-Jvari-Mestia highway because of rainfall that caused landslides and rock fall. The movement of all kinds of transport was banned at this section until 8:00 am on March 18, according to the department.

Travel is permitted on other sections of the roads. (Trend)