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Meeting in parliament to answer questions on TBC Bank case deranged

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, February 27
A meeting in the Parliament’s Economic Committee on Tuesday, which should have answered questions regarding the high-profile TBC Bank case involving the regulatory National Bank of Georgia (NBG) and former top TBC bankers Mamuka Khazaradze and Badri Japaridze was deranged as NBG head claimed that the public discussion “could harm” the commercial bank.

The meeting was scheduled after the NBG decision on 15 February to demand the withdrawal of Khazaradze and Japaridze from TBC due to the money laundering investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office involving the two and the decision of Khazaradze and Japaridze to leave the bank on 21 February “to avoid the harm on TBC, the country’s economic environment and financial stability.”

Head of NBG Koba Gvenetadze, Khazaradze and Japaridze were scheduled to make speeches and answer the legislators’ questions.

Head of Parliament’s Economic Committee Roman Kakulia, who made the decision to suspend the meeting, stated that Gvenetadze was ready to provide details regarding the case, however, the information “might harm” TBC.

“Gvenetadze told the committee members that we must have taken the responsibility for the possible consequences if he answered all the questions. We decided not to take such responsibility,” Kakulia said.

Khazaradze said that “all the damage that could be inflicted to TBC and the country’s image, has already been inflicted due to the absurd investigation.”

The opposition believes that the ruling party was afraid of “revealing the truth” and Kakulia was forced by his party to suspend the meeting.

Giga Bokeria from the European Georgia opposition says that they will re-summon NBG head to parliament to receive answers on all the questions.

“Gvenetadze had no answers and did his best to avoid the questions,” Bokeria said.

In his previous statement, Khazaradze said that the “ongoing negative campaign” was targeted to discredit him and mentioned the role of TBC in the 2.5 billion USD Anaklia Deep Sea Port project.

“Such an attack on me is directly reflected on the reputation of the bank and a bank should not be involved in long-lasting legal disputes with its regulatory bank (the National Bank of Georgia), especially when the latter is not free in making decisions, despite the high-level independence the law grants it,” Khazaradze said.

Khazaradze claimed that the top state figures refused to show interest in the issue, despite the fact that he had sent all necessary documentation to them proving the legality of the transaction made by the bank in 2007-2008.

PM Mamuka Bakhtadze said that he received nothing from Khazaradze and stated that the TBC case had nothing to do with the Anaklia project.

The NBG stated that the reason why it demands the resignation of Khazaradze and Japaridze was the violations found in the Bank transaction made in 2007-2008.

The Georgian Chief Prosecutor’s Office stated earlier in January 2018 that its Financial Monitoring Service launched a study of financial assets of TBC Bank, its client companies, bank administrators and particular shareholders in May 2018, which revealed “signs of money laundering”.

“We launched the investigation into money laundering on 2 August 2018. The case concerns developments in 2008 when LTD Samgori M and LTD Samgori Trade received a 17 million USD loan in an accelerated manner from TBC Bank without providing any real estate,” the Prosecutor’s Office said.

The Prosecutor’s Office says that at the end of 2008, TBC, without providing any genuine reasons, wrote off the debt of the companies and in 2012 completely freed the companies from any financial obligations before the bank.

The office reported that when the money was placed on the accounts of the companies, head of TBC Mamuka Khazaradze and another representative of the bank Badri Japaridze took the same amount of loan as physical entities from TBC.

The opposition believes that the founder of the ruling party Bidzina Ivanishvili has interests to the Anaklia project and he's directing a campaign to “discredit Khazaradze”.