The issue of two Israeli businessmen, awaiting verdict in bribery trial from Tbilisi City Court, was raised again on March 30 during the parliamentary debates with a senior ruling party lawmakers calling one of the defendants, Ron Fuchs, “swindler” and “corrupt” “so called businessman.”
The issue was raised on the final day of lengthy hearings of government members in the Parliament, when a lawmaker from parliamentary minority party Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM), Levan Vepkhvadze, asked PM Nika Gilauri, who was present in the Parliament chamber, about his alleged role in the arrest of Ron Fuchs and his associate Zeev Frenkiel.
“I want to ask personally to the Prime Minister about the issue of Israeli businessmen, because it is linked with the investment climate. When inviting him [Ron Fuchs] to Georgia, did PM know that he [Fuchs] would be arrested after his arrival? If he did not know, it means that he was not informed about it from the relevant [law enforcement] structures and if he knew, it means that he brought [Fuchs] into Georgia in order to arrest him… This is a pressing question – a question which will be looked into by any potential investor. All the pressing questions should be answered,” MP Levan Vepkhvadze said.
Fuchs says that he arrived in Georgia after receiving a letter from PM Nika Gilauri inviting him to settle a long-standing multi-million dispute with the Georgian government, which he won in the international arbitration. He says that the letter was part of “the plot” by the Georgian authorities to lure him into Georgia under the pretext of finalizing deal, but in fact it turned out to be a trap aimed at arresting him and forcing him to reject his multi-million claim.
In his 50-minute speech in which he was responding to multiple issues, mainly of economic nature, raised during the parliamentary debates, PM Gilauri did not address a question about the Israeli businessman’s case.
The issue was, however, addressed by parliamentary majority leader, MP Petre Tsiskarishvili, who said in his speech that having a letter of invitation from the PM did not amount to having a right “to extort” money from the state.
“The issue of so called businessman Ron Fuchs was voiced here last week and again today by MP Levan Vepkhvadze. How long are you – our political opponents - going to be defenders of swindler, corrupt businessmen?” MP Tsiskarishvili asked.
Like in his previous remarks on the issue, MP Tsiskarishvili again said that Fuchs obtained energy concession rights in Georgia in 1990s – the source multi-million dispute – through bribery and then tried “to extort” tens of millions from the state.
“Do you think that if a businessman has an invitation from the PM it gives [a businessman] immunity while extorting money from the state through bribery? Other businessmen are not doing it and all the other honest businessmen whether foreigners or our compatriots are free to do business,” MP Tsiskarishvili said.