Tbilisi City Court acquitted former energy and finance minister Alexander Khetaguri and former government member Nika Gvaramia, who is now chief executive of Rustavi 2 TV, in trial over alleged large-scale bribery case.
Five other co-defendants into the same trial were also acquitted with a verdict delivered by judge Besik Bugianishvili on November 14.
The trial, which was ongoing for more than seven months, was over complex case involving allegations of bribery, money laundering, fraud and other charges.
Alexander Khetaguri, who was minister of energy and then finance minister in the previous government, was charged in late December, 2012 with large scale bribery and money laundering. He was accused of entering into a corrupt deal with Telasi, electricity distributor in Tbilisi, in summer 2012 through which, the prosecution claimed, Telasi and three of its daughter companies were able to evade paying “tens of millions of Lari in taxes” in exchange of paying USD 1 million.
Nika Gvaramia, who was deputy chief prosecutor in 2007, Justice Minister in 2008, education minister till late 2009 and became chief executive of Rustavi 2 TV in November 2012, was accused of handling the deal including through setting up a shell company.
Among other co-defendants were former chief executives of Telasi Devi Kandelaki and Ashot Manukyan (the latter was tried in absentia), as well as partner at a business consulting firm GDC Solutions Kakha Damenia, who was deputy economy minister in 2005-2008. Six persons, including Khetaguri and Gvaramia, were released on bail after being charged in December, 2012; Manukyan was wanted.
“Court was objective and confirmed once again that the judiciary turned out to be the most stable institution in this country,” Gvaramia said after the verdict was announced. “Frankly speaking at the time when I was in the government the judiciary had its shortcomings and there were shortcomings in the prosecutor’s office too and this latter, unlike the judiciary, still has.”
Gvaramia, who was deputy chief prosecutor in 2007, also said: “I regret very much that we’ve done many things wrongly in the prosecutor’s office and that’s very bad and I feel my and my friends’ share of responsibility in that. Unfortunately I had to be tried before the court as an accused to see and feel with all of its nuances how bad it is when prosecution is politically motivated; we’ve seen exactly that kind of prosecution during this trial – unqualified and politically motivated.”