Accusing prosecutor’s office of trying to stifle investigation, ex-head of presidential pardon commission called on the parliament to launch its own probe into his allegations that two senior GD lawmakers were exerting undue influence on him while lobbying for preterm release of several inmates convicted in 2010 “cocaine case”.
Aleko Elisashvili, who chaired presidential pardon commission from November 2013 till mid-2014 before being elected as independent member of the Tbilisi City Council (Sakrebulo), claimed in early December that “influential politicians” from the ruling Georgian Dream coalition were involved in the influence peddling. The prosecutor’s office opened the investigation after Elisashvili publicly voiced allegations.
Elisashvili was saying that he was going to release the names if he saw there was no progress in the investigation.
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On December 22 Elisashvili said in two separate interviews with Tbilisi-based television stations Rustavi 2 and Maestro TV that he now has “zero confidence” in prosecutor’s office and said that instead of trying to genuinely investigate his allegations, the prosecutor’s office is trying to “hush up” the case.
Pointing the finger at Eka Beselia and Manana Kobakhidze, Elisashvili said that from the very first day of his appointment as pardon commission chair these two senior Georgian Dream lawmakers were showing a huge interest towards “only one case” – inmates, who are serving lengthy prison terms for the 2010 case involving what the Interior Ministry at the time said was trafficking of large amount of cocaine. He said that the two MPs were persistently pushing for preterm release of these convicts.
“Sometimes they phoned me, sometimes sending SMS messages, sometimes a lawyer [representing ‘cocaine case’ convicts] was meeting me on their [two MPs’] behalf,” Elisashvili said.
He says that in December 2013 application for pardon of the ‘cocaine case’ convicts were automatically disqualified because they were failing to meet eligibility criteria for preterm release. About three months later when the same convicts re-applied, the two MPs renewed intense lobbying, according to Elisashvili.
He says that in late April he received series of “hysterical, categorical” SMS messages from Kobakhidze’s cell phone telling him “how I dared” not to take into consideration her appeals asking for preterm release of the convicts in question.
Elisashvili says that he showed these messages to President Giorgi Margvelashvili. The latter’s adviser on human rights issues, Kakha Kozhoridze, confirmed that the President had seen those messages, but he declined to comment on the content of those text messages; Kozhoridze, however, said that the president’s office was in close cooperating with the prosecutor’s office in the context of ongoing investigation.
Elisashvili says that he handed over his cell phone, where these messages were stored, to investigators. He also hinted that he has copies of these messages.
Last week MP Manana Kobakhidze has strongly denied ever sending messages “containing threat, intimidation, and pressure to Elisashvili or someone else.”
Kobakhidze did however confirmed showing interest towards the ‘cocaine case’ convicts, which, she, said was natural and legitimate taking into view the fact that she acted as their defense lawyer during the trial about five years ago. She said that she believed and still believes that the case was “fabricated”.
She also confirmed asking then chairman of the pardon commission Elisashvili for this application for pardon of ‘cocaine case’ convicts “not to be shelved.”
MP Eka Beselia called Elisashvili a “liar” and denied allegations as part of “dirty” political campaign against her and MP Kobakhidze.
Elisashvili says that the two MPs’ intense lobbying for preterm release of the convicts in question “triggered serious suspicion” about possible bribe-taking.
He claims that an official, whom he at this stage refuses to name, told him last year that Beselia and Kobakhidze received USD 200,000 in advance payment and were expected to get USD 1.5 million in case of securing preterm release of the ‘cocaine case’ convicts. A lawyer, representing the convicts in question, has denied the allegation.
Elisashvili says that he has not named the source of this information to investigators either, adding that he would have revealed the person’s identity if he had seen that prosecutor’s office was interested in genuine and thorough probe. He describes the source as being an “officeholder”, who still holds an official post although a different one than this person held last year when sharing information with Elisashvili about alleged bribe-taking.
Ex-chairman of the pardon commission also claims that in August, 2014 he informed about his allegations against the two GD MPs then chief prosecutor Giorgi Badashvili and deputy chief prosecutor Giorgi Gogadze. Elisashvili said that at the time prosecutor’s office ignored the case and launched the investigation only after he publicly spoke about it in early December. Gogadze, who still holds the post of deputy chief prosecutor, has denied receiving last year such information about possible influence peddling from Elisashvili.
On December 22 Elisashvili called on Parliament Speaker Davit Usupashvili and leader of the GD parliamentary majority group, Zviad Kvatchantiradze, to initiate an ad hoc parliamentary investigative commission, which would look into his allegations.
“If the parliament rejects to probe, it will demonstrate that all the branches of government are trying to cover-up corrupt politicians,” Elisashvili said.
Parliament Speaker Davit Usupashvili said that the investigation, launched just about couple of weeks ago, is still ongoing by the prosecutor’s office and the latter should be allowed to complete it without the need for parliament’s involvement.
“The prosecutor’s office is investigating the case; lots of people have been questioned and work is ongoing… We should wait for conclusions and findings of the prosecutor’s office. Investigative commission in the parliament cannot perform functions of prosecutor’s office in this particular case… It will be very difficult for the Parliament to replace law enforcement system any time when someone expresses non-confidence towards the law enforcement agencies,” Usupashvili said in an interview with Maestro TV on December 22.
Elisashvili has also demanded to suspend MP Manana Kobakhidze from her post of vice-speaker and MP Eka Beselia from her membership in the Prosecutorial Council. He also demanded to suspend deputy chief prosecutor Giorgi Gogadze pending investigation.