Bidzina Ivanishvili Fined with 148 650 131 Lari
On June 11 Tbilisi City Court fined leader of the Georgian Dream Bidzina Ivanishvili initially with 126 million lari and then with additional 22.42 million lari within one hour. According to Interpresnews, Ivanishvili has to pay 148 650 131 lari in total.
Tbilisi City Court approved on June 11 a decision of the State Audit Service imposing GEL 126.22 million (about USD 77.24 million) on leader of Georgian Dream opposition coalition Bidzina Ivanishvili.
GEL 126.22 million fine was imposed in connection to the case in which the state audit agency claimed, that distribution of satellite dish antennas free of charge by Global Contact Consulting (Global TV) with use of Ivanishvili’s funding constituted violation of party funding rules.
The agency said that the move actually amounted to giving gifts to voters with total worth of GEL 12,622,019 and was requesting the court to fine Ivanishvili with five times of this amount. This sum, however, was further doubled to GEL 126.22 million because this violation of the law, according to the court’s decision, was committed for multiple times by Ivanishvili.
Ivanishvili’s lawyers said they would appeal the court’s ruling.
This recent fine was imposed in connection to the state audit agency’s allegations that Ivanishvili, through his two companies Burji and Elita Burji, provided transportation services under “preferential” terms to his Georgian Dream opposition coalition. The state audit agency estimated this service was worth GEL 2,242,994, which it said actually amounted to illegal donation to the Georgian Dream by Ivanishvili. The fine in an amount of five times the sum in question was then doubled, because the state audit agency said Ivanishvili committed similar violation of party funding rules for multiple times.
Ivanishvili’s lawyers said they would appeal the both rulings within 48 hours, but also indicated that the appeal would have no chance for success, accusing court of making politically-motivated rulings.
In an interview with Tbilisi-based Maestro TV last week, Ivanishvili said that one of the aims of targeting him by the state audit agency was “to stop distribution of [satellite dish] antennas in the regions.”
“These antennas will make it possible for television stations, reporting objectively, to bring information into the provinces and that would downscale [affect] of lies by Saakashvili’s television stations and that will be disastrous for [the authorities],” Ivanishvili said.
Georgian Dream Replies to the Chamber of Control
On Bidzina Ivanishvili’s official Facebook page, Georgian Dream (GD) has published a clarification in reply to the request of the Financial Monitoring of Political Parties at the Chamber of Control of Georgia. The state audit agency requested GD to provide a financial report covering the period from November 1, 2011 to June 1, 2012.
Representatives of the Georgian Dream clarified that the international charity foundation Cartu was founded by JSC Cartu Group and Canadian citizen Gbego Tossa Ahognibo Jilber.
“You can verify the information provided in the database of the Registration Agency for Entrepreneurs and Non-Commercial (non-profit) Legal Entities. Thus, the allegations in your letter, that Cartu Foundation belongs to the physical person Bidzina Ivanishvili, are not true,” Georgian Dream’s statement reads.
The statement notes that since February 14, 2012 Nikoloz Chkhetiani has been Chair of the Board of the International Charity Foundation Cartu. As for Irakli Garibashvili, Georgian Dream representatives state that he was offered membership in the political party’s initiative group only after he had quit the position as head of the foundation.
“Consequently, your second assumption that Irakli Garibashvili is the director (chair of the board) of the Cartu Foundation in addition to being a leader of the Georgian Dream is not true,” the statement reads.
As for the Chamber of Control’s request for financial reports from November 1 to June 1, the Georgian Dream states that the state audit agency assumed its function as monitor of the legality and transparency of financial activities of political parties on December 28, 2011 when the relevant amendments were introduced to the Law about Political Unions of Citizens. Thus, Georgian Dream believes, the Chamber of Control is not authorized to request anybody to provide financial reports about fiscal activities before December 28, 2011.
“Despite the abovementioned circumstances, we are sending you the financial report for the requested period bearing in mind the longtime positive reputation of the Charity Foundation Cartu and transparency of its activities. We also underline that Cartu, as a charity organization, systematically published its financial reports in accordance with the law. A full financial report for 2011 was published in the 31.03.2012 issue of the newspaper Saerto Gazeti. In addition, international audit company Delloite and Touche systematically audits the activities of the foundation,” the statement of the Georgian Dream reads.
According to Interpressnews, the statement additionally reads that Article 341 Part II – “l” of the Law of Georgia on Political Unions of Citizens allows the Chamber of Control to request a financial report from a person only if there is reasonable doubt that Article 261 of this law has been violated.
“Since none of your assumptions in the letter are true, please notify to us in written form what kind of reasonable doubt you have with regard to our activities and clarify which particular circumstances envisaged by Article 261 were breached by the Charity Foundation ’Cartu’,” the Georgian Dream’s statement reads.
“The Financial Monitoring Service of the Chamber of Control requested that the Cartu Foundation and Association Atu provide financial reports about their activities from November 1, 2011 to June 1, 2012. Representatives of the state audit agency claim that their request was based on violations of Article 261 of the Organic Law of Georgia on Political Unions of Citizens. In the case of the Cartu Foundation, it is linked with a physical person who has declared intentions to run for election – Bidzina Ivanishvili, who also owns the foundation; in addition to that, Irakli Garibashvili, a leader of the political coalition Georgian Dream, is Chair of the Cartu Foundation board. As for Association Atu, it was established that it had financial connections with Burji Ltd and Elita Burji Ltd which also belong to Bidzina Ivanishvili, as alleged by the Chamber of Control (CoC). The Financial Monitoring Service has detected several illegal instances of politically motivated funding by those companies and the court is processing the cases.”
CoC clarified that their reason for requesting financial documents from the Foundation is to conduct a complete and impartial investigation within the Monitoring Service’s jurisdiction to establish whether any violations have been committed.
Threat of Property Seizure
If Ivanishvili fails to pay his fine, the court will execute a seizure order.
Georgian Young Lawyers Association lawyer Lela Taliuri told InterPressNews that this issue is regulated by the law on implementation..
Taliuri said that Ivanishvili can appeal the civil court decision within 48 hours, but added that Ivanishvili has to pay the amount of the fine till the dispute ends, no matter the duration of the dispute.
“’The Law on Political Union of Citizens’ is the only law that cannot hinder implementation process,” Lela Taliuri clarified.
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