Prosecutors have agreed to release the ex-defense minister, Irakli Okruashvili, on bail after he pleaded guilty to large-scale bribery through extortion and negligence while serving as minister.
“Okruashvili will be released as soon as he posts GEL 10 million bail – an unprecedented amount for Georgia,” Nika Gvaramia, the deputy chief prosecutor, said on October 8.
Shortly after the announcement, the General Prosecutor’s Office released a video taped confession, in which Okruashvili says that accusations levelled by him against President Saakashvili and other top level officials were not true and were aimed at “gaining political dividends.”
On September 25 Okruashvili said that President Saakashvili had personally ordered him “to get rid of Badri Patarkatsishvili,” a business tycoon.
“These allegations were not true,” Okruashvili tells an investigator in the taped confession, which has been shown on Georgian television. “These statements made by me were aimed at gaining political dividends.”
“From time to time I held meetings in Tbilisi and abroad with Badri Patarkatsishvili and the statement about his alleged liquidation was meant to help Patarkatsishvili gain some political dividends. In turn it would have meant me gaining the support of Patarkatsishvili’s television station [Imedi TV] for my political purposes. During the meetings with him I kept him [Patarkatsishvili] informed of my political plans.
Also on September 25, Okruashvili questioned the official version of PM Zurab Zhvania’s death, saying that Zhvania’s corpse had actually been brought into the flat where it was apparently discovered.
He, however, told the investigator: “Apart from the official version of events I don't know anything [about Zhvania's death].”
Okruashvili also said that his allegation that President Saakashvili had ordered Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili and Data Akhalaia, the ex-chief of the Interior Ministry’s Department for Constitutional Security, to obtain compromising material against the clergy “was not true.”
He also recanted other accusations levelled against President Saakashvili, including that he [the president] allegedly owned shares in the Georgian Railway, in a local mobile phone operator and in the Tbilisi-based Rustavi 2 TV.
“I have no evidence of this and this statement was made just to discredit President Saakashvili,” Okruashvili said in the taped confession.
Okruashvili also reputiated an earlier allegation that in 2004 when he was the interior minister, he had arrested President Saakashvili’s uncle, Temur Alasania, for extortion.
He also said that accusations that Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili and Giga Bokeria, an influential lawmaker from the ruling party, were involved in corruption were not true.
“All these statements made by me aimed only to gain political dividends and to create a favorable political situation for me,” Okruashvili added.
Okruashvili also confesses to, along with Dimitri Kitoshvili, the president’s ex-spokesperson, forcing former lawmaker, Jemal Svanidze, into giving up his shares in Geocell for USD 250,000. The market price of the shares, according to the General Prosecutor’s Office, was at least USD 10 million.
“I knew that Svanidze had shares in Geocell; as I wanted them I asked Kitoshvili to meet him [Svanidze] and demand that he give them over, otherwise we warned him [Svanidze] that he would have problems,” Okruashvili said.
He also pleaded guilty to criminal negligence while serving as the defense minister. “I plead guilty to criminal negligence, because I failed to properly control some agencies under my supervision.”
Okruashvili is also charged with money laundering and misuse of power.
Nika Gvaramia, the chief general prosecutor, said that the General Prosecutor’s Office would release Okruashvili on bail because the former minister had agreed to cooperate with the investigation.
“But this does not mean that Okruashvili will be cleared of the charges,” Gvaramia said. “Okruashvili failed to provide any additional information or evidence. This has demonstrated that not a single allegation is true and was aimed at political gain.”
Gvaramia also said that Okruashvili’s lawyer was present during Okruashvili's confession.
Eka Beselia, Okruashvili's lawyer, however, denied this, saying a Prosecutor’s Office-appointed lawyer was there.
“I have a justified suspicion that Okruashvili gave this testimony under pressure from the prosecutors,” Beselia said. “The Prosecutor’s Office has no right to appoint a lawyer. We have a written statement attesting that Okruashvili only trusts me as his lawyer.”