At a news conference on April 1 the opposition New Rights party leaders unveiled “a smuggling scheme,” which, as they claim, still operates in Shida Kartli region bordering with breakaway South Ossetia, and which, according to the New Rights, is backed by top-level officials both in the region and in Tbilisi including Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili.
One of the leaders of the New Rights MP Pikria Chikhradze said at a news conference that despite recent reshuffle of regional police in Shida Kartli the smuggling routes still operate there.
She said that there are three major routes through which smuggled goods are brought from South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali to Gori, the main town of Shida Kartli. From Gori the smuggled goods are then distributed to east and west Georgia, mainly in capital Tbilisi.
One of these routes, which goes through the villages of Tkviavi, Tirdznisi, Karaleti is under the control of a group, which is associated with Governor of Shida Kartli region Mikheil Kareli, as most of those people involved in smuggling through this route are Kareli’s associates, or relatives, MP Pikria Chikhradze said.
She said that the Head of Gori administration Joseb Mumladze is in charge of the second route of smuggling from Tskhinvali, which lies on following villages: Nikozi, Pkhvenisi, Shindisi and Variani with final destination in Gori from where goods are distributed in Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Batumi in Adjara Autonomous Republic.
The third route of smuggling from Tskhinvali is under the control of Chairman of Gori District Court Bondo Matiashvili, MP Pikria Chikhradze said. This route, according to her, lies on the villages of Tkviavi, Plavi, Plavismani, Kvemo and Zemo Artsevi, Mejvriskhevi and Arkhisi with final destination to Gori and Tbilisi.
MP Chikhradze said that Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili is patronizing all of these three smuggling routes in Shida Kartli region.
On March 13 President Saakashvili sacked Aleksandre Sukhitashvili, the Chief of Police of the Shida Kartli region, and his deputies, as well as the chiefs of the police departments of all the districts located in the Shida Kartli region for alleged partaking in smuggling goods from breakaway South Ossetia. Chief of police in town of Kareli was arrested for suspected links with smugglers.