PM Bidzina Ivanishvili said that a brief detention of 23 officials from the Tbilisi city municipality on the morning of June 27, when the NATO delegation was visiting the country, was “not useful” for the government, but, as he said, this case demonstrated that the law enforcement agencies “free from political interference.”
23 officials from the Tbilisi municipality were detained by the financial police almost simultaneously in various locations of the capital city early on June 27; all of them, two of which were UNM members of Tbilisi City Council (Sakrebulo) and two deputies of the Tbilisi mayor, were released by the noon on the same day. Tbilisi Mayor, Gigi Ugulava, and other senior figures from the UNM party said early on June 27 that the government apparently decided to release detainees in order to avoid a scandal while a high-level NATO delegation, including its Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, was visiting Georgia.
Finance Ministry’s investigations service, however, claimed that 23 officials were not arrested, but “summoned” for questioning and then released. But those who were detained say that they were handcuffed and told that they were arrested, but then were released without being charged or even interrogated. They said that their questioning was a mere formality and were only asked about the place of their employment; some others say that they were released not only without being questioned, but even without being taken to the financial police headquarters.
Late on June 27 four officials from the Tbilisi municipality, including deputy mayor Davit Alavidze, were again arrested and charged with embezzlement/misspending of GEL 48.9 million of public funds.
“[Tbilisi Mayor Gigi] Ugulava wants to portray this case as a political persecution, but I would say opposite of that. This is a very good proof showing that I, as leader of the government and of a political group, do not manage daily processes in the law enforcement structures,” PM Ivanishvili told journalists in Batumi on June 28.
“Of course what happened yesterday [morning] was not politically very useful for us, but this demonstrates that we do not dictate and I do not dictate [to law enforcement agencies what to do]. The law enforcement agencies act in line with the law without looking at politics,” he said.
“Yes I understand that [foreign] diplomats were concerned and they asked many questions and what [happened on June 27] was not favorable for the current authorities. Anyway events developed as law enforcement agencies deemed it necessary and not as I or the political leadership did. It stresses once again that Georgia is a different state today and is not similar to what it was over the previous nine years,” Ivanishvili said.
“The law enforcement agencies are free from political interference and they do their job. If they have questions about procedural violations during arrest or interrogation, let them put forth examples, let them file a complaint in court and the court will decide,” he added.
23 officials from the municipality have already filed a complaint in the prosecutor’s office in respect of their brief detention on June 27 in which they say that their detention was carried out in violation of whole range of legal procedures.
But Finance Minister, Nodar Khaduri – the financial police is under the subordination of his ministry, insisted that 23 officials were not arrested on the morning of June 27. Interior Minister, Irakli Garibashvili, also claimed that it was not an arrest. “They were questioned,” he insisted.
“The case involves embezzlement of 50 million Lari from the state budget and it is completely incomprehensible for me why they [UNM] have stirred hype out of it. The only explanation is that it is caused out of fear,” Garibashvili said.