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Deputy Minister of Defence summoned for interrogation

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, November 4
Georgian Deputy Defence Minister Aleksandre Batiashvili has been summoned for questioning over the detention of five employees of the Ministry of Defence, who are accused of misspending budgetary funds in excess of 4 million GEL, in the favor of the Silknet cable company.

According to Prosecutor Jarji Tsiklauri, Batiashvili and the financial director of Silknet are close relatives and the memorandum between the ministry and the company concerning installation of a cable-communication system in the Defence Ministry was signed by Batiashvili. “There are questions that must be answered and suspicions that must be adequately addressed,” Tsiklauri states.

Minister Irakli Alasania, who had official meetings abroad during the detention, states that his employees are innocent and stresses that those who mislead people over the case will have to take responsibility. Minister of Refugees Sozar Subari informed that Alasania will present his view about the arrest of his officers to the Cabinet members on Thursday.

Following the events, Silknet released a statement where the company claims that it took part in the tender announced by the ministry, which was held transparently and won. The company denies any violations and admits that Silknet offered the best conditions and the project represented by them was cheaper than the project presented by other vendors.

The memorandum text is classified and confidential. The minister states that this status should be removed.

US ambassador to Georgia Richard Norland said that the case materials of the detained officials should be accessible to the defence lawyers, Norland said on Monday.

“We are watching this case as well as the ongoing political statements. The investigation should be conducted in accordance to the highest standards of due process and the rule of law,” Norland said.

Minister of Justice Thea Tsulukiani stated that an unwritten law was violated regarding the minister. She admitted that ministries respect the law-enforcement bodies and these bodies should also respect the minister. Tsulukiani stated that the Prosecutor’s Office should have waited for the minister’s return to the country and detained the officials only after.

“The process must be extremely transparent and the chief prosecutor must take responsibility for it,” Tsulukiani stated.

The parliamentary opposition states that the process aims at discrediting the minister.

Analyst Soso Tsiskarishvili told The Messenger that the case is shameful for the Prosecutor’s Office, which is still run by UNM period staff. The analyst stressed that the only force that wishes the coalition’s destruction is the United National Movement.

“The Georgian Dream has to run the country during a very difficult period, but if the coalition is engaged with inter-coalition disputes, appointing their relatives in high posts, they will definitely fail to take the reins in all directions. They will also fail to make the Prosecutor’s Office and Ministry of Interior Affairs a truly free and trustworthy place,” the analyst said, adding that there are very obvious links between the Defense Ministry case and former Agriculture Minister Davit Kirvalidze’s case, when the minister resigned because of some tender-related misspending in his ministry.

“Kirvalidze was promised to be reinstated if the employees were found not guilty, they were really found not guilty, but he was not reinstated. Currently, Kirvalidze serves as one of the members of the 6-man board of directors of one of the international organizations, whose headquarter is located in Washington. Two members of the board are former ministers of agriculture of the United States. It will not be difficult for professionals like Kirvalidze and Alasania to find jobs. However, their leaving must not be profitable for the coalition,” Tsiskarishvili said.