Group of Confidence, a team of five lawmakers in charge of providing parliamentary oversight on secret defense and security expenditures and programs, met on November 19 to discuss, among other issues, so called “fiber-optic cable case” in which one former and four serving officials from MoD and general staff were arrested late last month and charged with misspending in alleged sham tender, causing major split within the Georgian Dream ruling coalition, leading to sacking of defense minister Irakli Alasania and quitting of his Free Democrats party from the coalition.
The group, which held its first meeting on November 21, was briefed on this case by MoD officials; head of the state audit agency, Lasha Tordia, has also briefed the group about his agency’s ongoing scrutiny of MoD’s finances and procurements for the period of 2011-2013, which was launched in summer of 2013.
MoD tender last year on laying fiber-optic cable was classified as secret; consequently the investigation itself remains classified as well. Irakli Alasania and his Free Democrats have been calling on the authorities to de-classify the case to pave the way for open trial of arrested MoD and general staff officials, who deny charges. Alasania, who left for Canada where he will speak at the Halifax International Security Forum on November 21 and will then head to Washington, reiterated that the investigation is “politically motivated”, which aims at “discrediting” him.
GD MP Irakli Sesiashvili, who in his capacity of chairman of the parliamentary committee for defense and security is an ex-officio member of the Group of Confidence, said after the meeting that the group will recommend PM Irakli Garibashvili to “partially” de-classify the case.
Defense lawyers of arrested MoD and general staff officials have been complaining about not being able to provide proper defense for their clients as they are not able to obtain copies of the case file. Prosecutor’s office says that it cannot hand over case file to lawyers as long as the case remains classified, but instead offered the defense to study papers at the premises of prosecutor’s office. But defense lawyers insist on obtaining copies of the case file, arguing that prosecutors’ refusal is violation of criminal procedure code. Prosecutor’s office also said on November 19 that it has requested the Interior Ministry’s counter-intelligence service to review the case file to decide whether to de-classify the case or not.
The Group of Confidence also includes one opposition lawmaker from the UNM parliamentary minority group, Givi Targamadze. Other members, along with MP Sesiashvili and MP Targamadze, are lawmakers from GD parliamentary majority group Davit Saganelidze, Zviad Dzidziguri and Kakha Okriashvili.
UNM MP Givi Targamadze staged a walkout shortly after the start of group’s meeting on November 19. MP Targamadze accused the group of being politicized and criticized it for looking into MoD’s procurements only after the prosecutor’s office announced about its investigation late last month; the investigation into “fiber-optic cable” case, according to prosecutor’s office was launched more than five months ago. The Group of Confidence was formed in May, 2014.
MP Targamadze also accused head of the state audit agency, Lasha Tordia, of following ex-PM Bidzina Ivanishvili’s “orders”. Before being appointed as head of the state audit agency by the previous Parliament in summer 2012, Tordia was a lawmaker from UNM party. “He’s no longer my friend,” MP Targamadze said of Tordia after walking out of the meeting of Group of Confidence.
“I am perceived [by UNM] to be pro-Georgian Dream and the Georgian Dream perceives me to be pro-UNM,” Tordia told journalists, denying affiliation to any of the political groups.
The head of the state audit agency told the Group of Confidence that inspection of MoD’s procurements for the period of 2013, when the post of defense minister was held by Irakli Alasania, revealed one case – other than the “fiber-optic cable case”, in which there are “signs of criminal offense” and another one in which there are “financial flaws.” Both the cases are also classified as secret and their details are not public.