MPs from the opposition Conservative Party presented at a news conference on April 4 a taped phone conversation between, as claimed by the opposition MPs, chief of Financial Police Davit Kezerashvili and unknown person talking about illegal transactions, involving purchasing of cars for the Financial Police officials.
“This tape directly proves that criminal charges should be brought against Davit Kezerashvili for abuse of office,” MP Koba Davitashvili, the leader of Conservative Party said at a news conference.
Davit Kezerashvili has not made any comment regarding these accusations so far; however, the Georgian President’s spokesman Gela Charkviani said on April 4 that “Kezerashvili is a good official and he works well.”
In late March the Conservative Party leaders unveiled another taped phone conversation between the two officials of the Financial Police, who were speaking about the ways to obtain drugs. Both officials were sacked shortly after the tape was broadcasted by the Georgian televisions.
The recent incident involving the chief of the Financial Police has also sparked debates over the control of the televisions’ editorial policy by the authorities.
Last week, a popular weekly program Droeba (Times) at the Tbilisi-based Imedi television, made an announced that the program intended to broadcast a story about the involvement of the Financial Police officials in illegal transactions on April 3. But on Sunday, when the Droeba was on air, an anchor of this program Giorgi Targamadze announced unexpectedly that he will not broadcast the earlier promised story because he “was asked by owner of Imedi television Mr. Badri Patarkatsishvili not show it.”
On April 4 influential media and financial tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili explained decision by saying that certain forces try to use the Droeba program as “a battlefield of compromising evidence.” “I do not need to speak with the authorities through compromising evidence. If I want to tell something to the government I can tell it personally and directly,” Badri Patarkatsishvili told reporters.
Decision of Imedi TV’s owner prompted the opposition to accuse the authorities in pressuring independent television stations. MP Koba Davitashvili said that a journalist of Imedi television handed over the taped phone conversation to him after the story was barred from broadcasting.
But President’s spokesman Gela Charkviani denied accusations as “groundless.” “The anchor has himself announced the reason why the story was not broadcasted and the authorities have nothing to do with it,” he added.
Financial Police was set up last year in an attempt to fight economic crime, mainly the smuggling. Davit Kezerashvili is a close ally of an influential MP Giorgi Arveladze, who is the political secretary of the ruling National Movement Party and a close associate of President Saakashvili. Those MPs who are associated with Arveladze’s circle claimed on April 4, that those forces launched “smearing campaign against Kezerashvili, who are not interested in fighting mafia.”