Court in Tbilisi ordered on Tuesday pretrial detention of co-owner of Georgia’s once one of the largest real estate developer and construction companies, Center Point Group, Maia Rcheulishvili, who is facing embezzlement charges, which she denies.
This is second set of charges against Rcheulishvili in connection to Center Point Group, which gained notoriety for allegedly duping thousands of its clients in 2000s.
Many of the company’s clients have complained that they were swindled in what could have been a pyramid-type scheme. Clients were making down-payments for construction of apartment buildings in which, when and if finished, they would own flats. But in 2010 the Center Point Group came on the verge of bankruptcy and announced that it was unable to fulfill its construction obligations before about 6,200 clients in what anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International Georgia described as the country’s “biggest construction scandal.”
First set of charges against Maia Rcheulishvili involving large-scale fraud was filed in July, 2013; her sister Rusudan Kervalishvili, was also charged at the time in connection to the same case; trial is still ongoing.
Maia Rcheulishvili and Rusudan Kervalishvili hold 50% of company shares each.
Maia Rcheulishvili’s husband, Vakhtang Rcheulishvili, was a lawmaker in 1990s and in early 2000s, who quit the politics after the 2003 Rose Revolution; he has been involved in the management of the Center Point Group and dozens of its daughter companies, owned directly or indirectly by Maia Rcheulishvili and Rusudan Kervalishvili.
Rusudan Kervalishvili, was a lawmakers from UNM party and parliament’s vice-speaker in 2008-2012. Although she was holding a high level post in the legislative body, Kervalishvili has never been among key political decision-makers and she completely distanced from politics after serving her four-year term in the Parliament.
New set of charges were filed against Maia Rcheulishvili this week in connection to now defunct daughter company of Center Point Group in Adjara region on the Black Sea coast.
The prosecution claims that GEL 21.39 million was embezzled in a period between 2004 and 2010 from the company’s Adjara branch that made it impossible to fully meet its obligations before clients, who made down-payments, and to fully complete three construction projects in Batumi.
Maia Rcheulishvili’s son, Guram Rcheulishvili, who is on the company’s board, and two former executives of Center Point Group’s branch in Adjara were also charged in the same case and sent to pretrial detention; all of them deny charges – one of them, who was executive of the company’s Adjara branch for two years till 2006, says that she was a nominal figures in the company who had nothing to do with its finances.
Rcheulishvili’s defense lawyer, Marina Tsutskiridze, says that Center Point Group completed number of construction projects over the past two years under Rcheulishvili’s leadership and putting her behind the bars pending trial will probably leave the remaining ongoing projects again in limbo.
Vakhtang Rcheulishvili, husband of Maia Rcheulishvili who is also involved in the management of the company, alleged that the new set of criminal charges is part of an attempt to seize Center Point Group’s assets and accused the government of being behind this “politically motivated” campaign.