Dimitri Kitoshvili, the president’s spokesman and parliamentary secretary, has been arrested and charged with extortion, Deputy Prosecutor General Nika Gvaramia said on September 25.
Gvaramia said that in October 2006 Kitoshvili, who then served as the chairman of the National Regulatory Commission for Communications, “extorted” 2.6% of shares in mobile operator company Geocell from ex-lawmaker and businessman, Jemal Svanidze.
The market price of the shares, Gvaramia said, was almost USD 10 million, while only USD 250,000 was paid.
“During this illegal action,” Gvaramia said, “Kitoshvili claimed that he was acting on behalf of the [ruling] National Movement Party.”
He pointed out that it was “very hard” for him to make the statement because he personally knew Kitoshvili for many years.
“However, I want to make it clear that our government will not make any exceptions in our anti-corruption drive,” Gvaramia added.
The arrest of Kitoshvili comes a couple of days after police arrested the ex-governor of Kvemo Kartli region, Mikheil Kareli, and charged him with bribery and illegal business practices. Kareli is a close associate of ex-Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili, who is expected to soon form a political party. Although Kareli has always been a source of controversy during his three years in office, his arrest has been linked by commentators to Okruashvili’s plans.
Kitoshvili, who is considered to be a close associate of Saakashvili and Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili, has also reportedly kept close links with Okruashvili. In the past Kitoshvili and Okruashvili shared a joint legal practice.
Some opposition lawmakers have already alleged that Kitoshvili’s arrest is a counter measure aimed at containing the political threat posed by Okruashvili.
Shortly after Kitoshvili’s arrest, there were reports that Okruashvili would make a public statement later in the day. If confirmed, it would be his first since he quit the government last November.
Before the 2003 Rose Revolution, Kitoshvili was the then opposition National Movement party’s representative to the Central Election Commission (CEC). In 2004 he briefly held the CEC chairmanship before being appointed as the chairman of the National Regulatory Commission for Communications in the summer of 2004. He was appointed as the president’s spokesman and parliamentary secretary in April 2007.
The arrest of Kitoshvili has caught most lawmakers by surprise.
“This is very painful and unexpected for us,” Nino Kalandadze, a lawmaker from the ruling party told reporters.
She rejected there was any link between Kitoshvili’s arrest and Okruashvili, saying it was merely “speculation.”
“It is very sad that it has happened,” Pavle Kublashvili, a lawmaker from the ruling party said. “This type of corrupt deal is, however, unforgivable.”