Prosecutors filed charges against six persons, among them three former senior government officials, arrested in connection to, what the authorities say, the case of “a large-scale elite corruption”.
Former energy and finance minister Alexander Khetaguri has been charged with large scale bribery, carrying a prison term of up to fifteen years, and money laundering.
Nika Gvaramia, director of Rustavi 2 TV and a government minister till the end of 2009, was charged with providing assistance in bribery, money loudening and false entrepreneurship, as well as with forging documents, his lawyer said. Gvaramia’s associate Giorgi Nemsitsveridze faces charges related to false entrepreneurship and assisting in money laundering.
Chief executive of Telasi, electricity distributor company in Tbilisi, Devi Kandelaki has been charged with giving bribe, forging documents and providing assistance in money laundering.
Kakha Damenia, who was deputy economy minister in 2005-2008, and is a partner at a business consultancy firm GDC Solutions, has been charged with providing assistance to bribery and money laundering, as well as with using forged documents. Another partner from the same firm, Bela Gutidze, has been charged with using forged documents and concealing crime.
All six persons deny charges, according to their lawyers.
The prosecutor’s office claims that in July, 2012 former energy minister Alexander Khetaguri accepted an offer from electricity grid Telasi to pay USD 1 million in exchange for avoiding of tax scrutiny of Telasi and three of its power generating daughter companies. The prosecutors say that Khetaguri asked Gvaramia to handle the deal and for that purpose the latter instructed his associate Nemsitsveridze to register a shell company, which became a recipient of USD 1 million from Telasi and three of its daughter companies as if for consultancy services. The authorities also claim that GDC Solutions was also involved in the scheme acting as a sham subcontractor.
Chief Prosecutor, Archil Kbilashvili, said on December 20 that in order to dispel any possible perception of politically motivated prosecutions, he was ready to offer to hold jury trials into all the recent high-profile cases in which former high-ranking officials were arrested.
The proposal would require legislative amendments. Jury trial was introduced in Georgia in late 2011, but currently it only applies to aggravated murder and cases of murder committed in the heat of passion, as well as in cases of rape.