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Ex-Tbilisi Mayor Sentenced, but Not Sent to Prison

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, March 1
(TBILISI)--Former Mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava, who is now one of the leaders of the European Georgia opposition party, has been sentenced to one year and two months in prison by the Tbilisi City Court, for the charge related to the embezzlement of 48 million GEL of state funds.

However, other sentences by the Tbilisi Court of Appeals against Ugulava have absorbed the sentence and the former official has not been sent to prison, as the Georgian penalty system allows lesser penalties are absorbed by the greater penalties.

Ugulava has been facing several embezzlement and official power exceeding charges since 2013, the time Georgian Dream party replaced the nine-year rule of the United National Movement (UNM) government.

Initially Ugulava, who served as Tbilisi Mayor in 2005-2013, was charged for embezzlement of GEL 48 million of public funds in 2010-2011. The charge was filed against him in 2013.

However, yesterday the judge of the Tbilisi City Court re-qualified the charge and found Ugulava guilty of exceeding of official powers and not for embezzlement.

The Georgian Chief Prosecutor’s Office wrote they will appeal the verdict and will demand severe punishment for the former official.

Yesterday’s verdict also saw five other former officials charged. However, only one, former head of the Tbilisi Development Fund Giorgi Sabanadze was sentenced to eight years in prison. Sabanadze could not be sent to prison as he is wanted.

Ugulava was detained in 2014. Before the detention the court deprived him of the right to serve as Tbilisi Mayor due to various charges against him.

In September 2015, he was sentenced to four years and six months in prison after found guilty of misspending 1.4 million GEL public funds while serving as Tbilisi Mayor.

The Court of Appeals re-qualified the misspending charges and found him guilty of exceeding his official powers. The court sentenced him to one year and four months in prison.

Ugulava was released in January 2017 and shortly founded the European Georgia opposition, the party which consists of former members of the United National Movement and several new faces.

The United National Movement members believe that Ugulava was released by the “real ruler” of the Georgian Dream party, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili to destroy the UNM.

Ugulava claims he was a political prisoner and all charges against him are politically motivated.