Lithuanian businessman, Saulius Vaitkevičius, who was arrested in Tbilisi airport on Wednesday and charged with embezzling USD 2 million of a company funds in which he is a co-owner, has been released by the court without bail or any other measure of restraint.
Prosecutors filed on May 30 charges against Vaitkevičius, who chairs the Baltic Chamber of Commerce in Georgia, under the article 182 of the criminal code, which deals with embezzlement/misspending and requested the court to remand Vaitkevicius in pretrial detention.
The prosecution says that charges stem from 2010 transaction made by Vaitkevičius, when he served as chief executive of Caucasus Electro Market, a firm providing electrical components and equipment; prosecution claims that USD 2 million was embezzled by Vaitkevicius after he transferred the company funds for purchase of ventilation and air conditioning system, which was never delivered.
Vaitkevičius, who denies charges, is owner of 15% of Caucasus Electro Market shares, but his ownership rights have been restricted through March, 2012 court order, stemming from a civil litigation, which is still ongoing with other co-owners of the company. Vaitkevicius was sued by his partners from the company over this disputed USD 2 million transaction. Vaitkevicius then filed a countersuit.
Lithuanian businessman’s lawyers told the Tbilisi City Court during the May 31 hearing into prosecution’s motion for pretrial detention that Vaitkevicius won the civil litigation in the lower court, but the case was taken to the appeals court now awaiting hearing.
Citing that Vaitkevičius was detained in the Tbilisi airport just before his departure having one-way ticket, prosecution argued that pretrial detention was needed in order not to allow the accused to leave the country. Defense lawyers, however, argued that Vaitkevicius was not going to flee Georgia and was intending to return as he was still retaining business interests in the country having shares in several companies.
After Vaitkevičius was arrested, his wife, Vaiva Vaitkevičienė, told the Baltic News Service (BNS) that prosecutors were interested in his husband’s links with Georgia’s previous government, as well as with another Lithuanian national Darius Jurgelevičius, who was an adviser to Vano Merabishvili when the latter served as the interior minister. Merabishvili is now under pretrial detention facing multiple criminal charges, which he denies as politically motivated.
After the May 31 court hearing Vaitkevičius, who was released from the courtroom, declined to comment.
His defense lawyer declined to comment when asked if Vaitkevičius was questioned by prosecutors about his links with the previous government and if the case was related to politics.
A preliminary hearing on the merits of the criminal case against Vaitkevičius has been set for July 17.
Vaitkevičius was chairman of the supervisory board of Populi grocery store chain, as well as a partner and board chairman of Ioli Supermarket till these two chains were bought by investment management group SEAF in December 2012.