Influential media and financial tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili said on March 29 that he no longer plans “to keep silent” and criticized the authorities over their illegal practices involving extracting money from businesses for so called 'law enforcement development funds.'
“Over the last nine months I have been waiting for the government to change its method of activities. I was waiting and keeping silent. But keeping silent today is already equal to a crime,” Patarkatsishvili said.
The Army Development and Law Enforcement Development Funds were set up in Georgia shortly after the 2003 Rose Revolution to, as the authorities put it, collect donations from “patriotic businessmen” to boost the capabilities of the country’s armed forces and law enforcement agencies. But the authorities claim that these funds have already been abolished and information about them is transparent.
Speaking at an assembly of the Federation of Georgian Businessmen (FGB) - an influential business lobby group - Patarkatsishvili said that he also had to take, as he put it, “unusual steps” by transferring money to these Funds.
“You know that several funds were set up in which [businessmen] were paying certain sums of money. One of these funds was set up at the General Prosecutor’s Office in which a total of GEL 160 million was accumulated… It was money paid by businessmen as kind of a compulsory payment and almost no business was left which has not suffered from this… I think this is one of those issues on which the society should know the truth and especially those businessmen who paid money to these funds through different forms - some of them with cars, some of them with cash, some of them with shares,” Patarkatsishvili said.
“I think that we have a right to receive information on why this money was taken from us, who managed the spending from these funds and how these funds were spent. Unfortunately, those bodies which are in charge of inspecting private and state structures have no right to inspect the activities of these funds because these are neither state nor private structures,” Patarkatsishvili added.
He also said that he does not want his speech to be perceived by the authorities as a statement of “ill-wishes.”
“I want to request that the authorities not create an icon of an enemy from me. I also do not want these opinions expressed by me to trigger an argument from the authorities because this will give our ill-wishers ground to trigger a rift among us, among the people who have a common goal – and, by the way, I include everyone in this group - opposition, authorities, businessmen. I do not want to create an impression that a crack has appeared… I just want the goals which we have jointly set for a better future for Georgia – which should bring us closer to Euro-Atlantic principles – to be implemented more adequately and efficiently,” Patarkatsishvili said.
In his speech Patarkatsishvili also said that he is “constructive” in his criticism and can also note the progress which, as he put it, was made possible through the effective policies of the government.
“I want to be constrictive and I want to note the developments in Adjara… If we want to look upon the successes of our government in a very short period of time this can be seen in the Adjara Autonomous Republic… wherein serious construction works are underway. If Georgia develops under the Adjara model, this country will become very beautiful very soon,” he said.
“I want to recommend and request that the authorities resume a dialogue between the government and the business sector, because we are the people who are ready to fully support the authorities if, of course, our recommendations are taken into account and if we are not seen only as people who can be shepherded,” Patarkatsishvili stated.