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Saakashvili Faces Second Court Trial on Embezzlement of State Funds

By Khatia Bzhalava
Friday, December 3
Georgia’s former president Mikheil Saakashvili faced a trial hearing yesterday which concerned the embezzlement of state funds. As US Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan announced yesterday “it is positive that Mr. Saakashvili was able to attend his court hearing in person the second time.” According to her, there is an effort being made to try and ensure that his right to a fair trial is being observed.

Saakashvili is accused of misspending GEL 8,837,461 (about USD 2.9 million with current exchange rate) for personal purposes, including staying in luxury hotels, spa resorts, visiting aesthetic clinics and receiving botox injections, purchasing expensive clothing and funding education for his son.

Prosecutor’s Office said that Saakashvili and the former Head of the Special State Protection Service (SSPS), Temur Janashia, face the charges under Article 182 of the criminal code, envisaging misspending/embezzlement of a substantial amount of funds, considering imprisonment from 7 to 11 years as punishment.

Saakashvili argued at the trial that accusations about botox injections were a lie and noted that he had to receive skin treatments for a disease he suffered from following the 2008 Russo-Georgian war. As for the luxury trips, he argued that the visits served the state interests by hosting foreign leaders. According to him, he hosted the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev in 2008, and as a result, the supply of oil and gasoline to Georgia or supplies to the National Bank “did not stop for a second”. He also remarked that some of the expenditures he is being probed for concern public funds spent on hosting leaders of countries that Russia was trying to persuade into recognizing Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region.

Saakashvili also announced that no law prohibits funding the president’s son, stressing that ‘Eduard [Saakashvili’s son] is a particularly talented man’. He remarked that his son was “the best graduate of all time at the American Academy’, and noted that during his government top 50 best Georgian students used to receive state funding to study abroad.

“I transferred more than 5 million from the President’s Reserve Fund to send Georgian students abroad. How much did you transfer?” he argued.

Saakashvili believes that the case is ‘particularly shameful,’ noting that all seven charges against him are ‘politically motivated. Ruling party MP Gia Volski has stated that embezzlement of state funds is a crime and everyone must be equal before the law, recalling the case of a former French president who was convicted for spending 300,000 euros from the state budget.