The Georgian authorities are planning to heighten penalties for membership to criminal groups and to criminalize cooperation with and providing assistance to the so called thieves-in-law or the criminal bosses.
The amendments bill, initiated by the Interior Ministry, was endorsed by the Government on February 2 and submitted to the Parliament for approval.
According to the proposal, the penalty for membership to “criminal underworld” will increase from five to eight years to seven to ten years in prison. The penalty for being a “thief-in-law” is set to increase as well; from seven to ten years to nine to fifteen years in prison.
The bill also criminalizes addressing members of the “criminal underworld” for settling disputes, as well as providing support to them. Convening and participating in “a criminal discussion” will be penalized as well (previously, it was applicable to thieves-in-law only).
The proposal entails other provisions as well, including releasing members of the “criminal underworld” from criminal liability if they cooperate with the investigation on grave and less grave crimes.
Speaking at the government session on February 2, Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said “criminal mentality” would never be able to “gain a foothold” in Georgia. “We are very consistent and merciless in that regard, since it concerns the safety of our fellow citizens and the future of our country,” he noted.
Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia commented on the matter as well, saying “criminal mentality” and organized crime was very dangerous for the country, as it “impedes” the country “in many ways,” including its economic development.
Membership to “criminal underworld” was criminalized in 2005, with the adoption of the Law on Combating Organized Crime and Racketeering.
The law defines the term “criminal underworld” as a group of persons which acts in accordance with special criminal rules and aims at gaining profit through intimidation, threats, coercion and other crimes. The “criminal underworld” is led by “thieves-in-law,” who are criminal bosses.