Tbilisi mayor, Gigi Ugulava, says that charges which Finance Ministry’s investigations service plans to file against him are “absurd”.
The Investigations Service said that Ugulava would be charged into two separate cases – one related to “a criminal scheme of seizure of Imedi TV” in 2008, which is also related to the case of Tbilisi municipality’s Rike deal and another one related to misspending of GEL 4.1 million of public funds by creating hundreds of fictitious job positions in a municipal service through which funds were channeled to pay salaries of UNM party activists.
“Investigators accuse us of employing people. Yes, we have employed them and I think there is no crime in it,” Ugulava said late on Friday, adding that the truth would be revealed during court proceedings where hundreds of witnesses, who have testified before investigators into this case, will have the opportunity to testify “freely” before the court.
PM Bidzina Ivanishvili told journalists after meeting with Tbilisi-based foreign diplomats on February 22, that Ugulava “spent budgetary funds” and that he had no right to spend public funds for campaign purposes of the UNM party. Ugulava said that by these remarks PM Ivanishvili violated the principle of presumption of innocence.
Second case, involving Imedi TV and Rike deal, over which he faces charges, Ugulava said, “is peak of absurdity”. He said that he was not able to speak about details because he even did not yet know under which articles of criminal code investigators would file charges against him.
“I am sure that there is no legal ground whatsoever that may prove charges against me. I am ready to face investigation, I am ready to face trial,” Ugulava said.
He said that “real intention” behind criminal proceedings against him was Georgian Dream’s efforts “to extend its authority” over Tbilisi self-governing bodies. He said that UNM members of Tbilisi City Council (Sakrebulo) were under pressure to quit the UNM. Several UNM members of Sakrebulo have recently left the party, which still maintains majority in the city council. Chairman of UNM faction in Tbilisi Sakrebulo, Nikoloz Khachirashvili, was the latest in series of recent withdrawals from UNM membership.
Ugulava said that he was offering deputy mayor’s post to UNM secretary general Vano Merabishvili.
Merabishvili said that he would “move into” the Tbilisi City Hall if Ugulava was arrested and no longer able to perform his duties of the mayor.