The Tbilisi City Court has ordered a lawmaker from UNM parliamentary minority group, Giorgi Vashadze, to pay GEL 50,000 (about USD 29,700) to Joseph Kay for calling him a “swindler”.
Joseph Kay, a distant relative of late tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili who first came into public attention in early 2008 after his highly controversial takeover of some of Patarkatsishvili’s assets after the latter’s death, was awarded GEL 50,000 as a non-pecuniary compensation in a slander lawsuit.
Court’s ruling was delivered without oral hearing of arguments of the parties at a preparatory hearing on December 13.
The Tbilisi City Court said the ruling was delivered after defendant’s lawyer failed to appear at the preparatory hearing.
MP Vashadze’s lawyer Ketevan Zandukeli from Legal Consulting & Services law firm, told Rustavi 2 TV on December 16 that she was “late” at the preparatory hearing due to health reasons; she said if now the court finds that excuse for her absence was reasonable, the case will be set upon hearing on its merit.
“We hope that the court will find the excuse as reasonable and we will be able to move to hearing of our arguments to support our position that Mr. Vashadze expressed his personal opinion and there was no dissemination of slanderous statement,” the lawyer said.
Plaintiff’s lawsuit stems from Vashadze’s televised remarks made on February 24, 2013. Commenting on a criminal case against Tbilisi mayor Gigi Ugulava in which Joseph Kay is one of prosecution’s key witnesses, who has yet to be questioned at the trial, MP Vashadze said that prosecutor’s case was built on testimony of a “swindler”. “Everyone knows very well who is Joseph Kay; he is internationally known swindler,” MP Vashadze said in February. Few months later Kay filed GEL 50,000 slander lawsuit against Vashadze.
“I expressed my subjective view and I have right to do it under the freedom of expression law… Joseph Kay is a public figure and I have the right to express my opinion about him,” Vashadze said in July and repeated that he thinks Kay is a “swindler.”
Vashadze is not the only one who publicly called Kay a “swindler”. In March, 2013 then PM Ivanishvili’s close associate and later his adviser, Gia Khukhashvili, also referred to Kay in a political TV talk show as “swindler.”