Giorgi Kelbakiani, chief executive and co-owner of a construction firm, whom the Interior Ministry accuses of kickback schemes with Tbilisi municipality’s budgetary funds, has been released on GEL 150,000 bail.
Kelbakiani, a close associate of Tbilisi mayor Gigi Ugulava, owns 70% of NCC construction firm.
He has been charged with “legalization of illegal income”; he could face up to twelve years in prison if found guilty.
The court remanded financial manager of the same company, Archil Chogovadze, who is facing the same charges, in detention pending trial.
Kelbakiani said after he was released that allegations against him were “absurd”.
NCC construction firm has been involved, among others, in ongoing Tbilisi municipality-backed construction projects, including in Tbilisi’s downtown Rike park.
According to the Interior Ministry the company has been the Tbilisi city municipality’s contractor, which has secured up to GEL 200 million worth of contracts from the capital city since 2009.
“The company has managed these funds, received from the capital city’s budget, through various corrupt schemes,” the Interior Ministry said on November 23, adding that in one episode in a period between 2009 and 2012 NCC transferred to one of its sub-contractors about GEL 6.58 million from which “Kelbakiani and Chogovadze reclaimed GEL 2.53 million in a form of a kickback.”
Tbilisi mayor, Gigi Ugulava, who says that Kelbakiani is his friend, said in a written statement on November 21 that there was “a perception” that criminal charges against Kelbakiani were politically motivated.
Ugulava said that it would be “logical to think” that criminal proceedings against Kelbakiani was an attempt “to mount pressure” on the Tbilisi local self-governance.
“I address [PM Bidzina] Ivanishvili: as far as [state] institutions out of your control get on your nerves, you’d better arrest me on fabricated charges,” said Ugulava, who recently had a verbal altercation with PM Ivanishvili during a government meeting.
The Interior Ministry also claimed that NCC construction firm had not been paying taxes “for years.”