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Who Supports Those Who Doomed Half of Gori To Unemployment?

20.08.2006
Okruashvili and Merabishvili’s Interest in the Gori Cotton Industrial Complex

It has been clear for quite a long time that Okruashvili and Merabishvili are rivals in obtaining influence over the Gori region. Officially the division between these two high-ranking law enforcers started after staff changes within the police. Whilst Okruashvili supports Aleko Sukhitashvili and his people, who are being punished by Merabishvili for being involved in the smuggling business, Merabishvili supports those whom Okruashvili blames for appropriating and wasting state property and for crimes committed long before the revolution.

In 2003, Irakli Okruashvili was sent to Gori and was appointed as leader of the local National Movement. The first people Okruashvili opposed were at that time members of the ‘Agordzineba’ Gori office, led by the former director of the Gori cotton industrial complex, Gela Chkheidze. His brother, Paata Chkheidze was a city councilor. Okruashvili promised the people of Gori that he would punish the destroyers of the Gori Cotton and Cloth Industrial Complex, including the Chkheidzes, when he came to power. Okruashvili during his time as General Prosecutor and Interior Minister did indeed, as he says, ‘screw the Chkheidzes’ lives’.

More precisely, in spring 2004, a criminal case was launched about the dismantling of the Cotton and Cloth Industrial Complex and Gela Chkheidze was brought to the prosecutor’s office as one of those accused. Because Chkheidze did not appear at the prosecutor’s office, the police marked him as a wanted man. Since 1996 the industrial complex has been totally dismantled. The equipment, tools, expensive looms and anything iron was transported to Turkey through Adjara. Okruashvili was particularly interested in how the Chkheidzes and their friends could have bought JSC ‘Laini’ (the cotton and cloth industrial complex) at the low price of 201,000GEL, when a single loom costs that sum. In 1996 JSC ‘Laini’ was sold at auction and the Chkheidzes bought it for the aforementioned amount of money.

Whilst he was wanted by Okruashvili’s office, Gela Chkheidze stated in a conversation with us that he had been the director of the ‘Laini’ for only two years - 1996-98. According to him, the ‘Laini’ was not destroyed under his leadership, but rather they used to produce cloth and were decorated in Europe. The Laini’s director after Gela Chkheidze was Nukri Gelashvili, who it transpired, is a cousin of Vano Merabishvili - the present Interior Minister.

Gela Chkheidze also stated that putting the ‘Laini’ up for auction was something desired by persons within the governor’s administration and state chancellery at that time. These bodies were headed up by Badri Khatidze and Irakli Bochoridze. According to Gela Chkheidze, any projects devised by the heads of ‘Laini’ were blocked by Khatidze and Bochoridze in the State Chancellery. For these reasons the enterprise went broke and the debts owed were to be paid by selling off the looms and construction materials.

Despite this, Okruashvili did not leave Chkheidze alone until he was made to pay quite a large sum, 30,000GEL, to the budget. After he paid up the criminal proceeding were changed to merely police supervision. According to our information, Gela Chkhedze was made to pay much more money than officially stated. It should also be noted that the Shida Kartli Prosecutor, Davit Tsituri was made to resign a short time after.

Conversely, another director of the ‘Laini’, Nukri Gelashvili either was not, or could not be punished. Everybody in Gori says that Nukri Gelashvili escaped punishment with the help of Merabishvili. Moreover, Nukri Gelashvili hosted the Interior Minister, who was in Gori a month ago, something that can be clearly seen in a photo we took. After the appointment of Vano Merabishvili as Interior Minister, the ‘Laini’ case was dropped. Now neither the police nor prosecutors are concerned about the fact that a giant enterprise, previously employing the whole of the Gori region, was wasted.

On the other hand, regional Governor Mikheil Kareli forced Gela Ghkheidze’s brother, Paata Chkheidze ‘to his knees’. Paata Chkheidze was initially made to resign from the post of city councilor, after which he was forced to leave the town with his family. The former councilor then became a dean of the Foreign Languages Department at Gori State University; however Mikheil Kareli’s subsequent demand to fire him from the university was satisfied.

Whilst the police and the prosecutor’s office were trying their best to brush the ‘Laini’ case under the carpet, the governor, supported by the State Property Management Agency seized all the clinics and property from the Chkheidzes. The Chkheidzes parted with the Gori Children’s Clinics ‘Janmrteli Momavali’ (healthy future) which were governed by Chkheidze’s wife. The State Property Management Agency is run by people close to Mikheil Kareli and because of this Merabishvili could not interfere in its activities and was unable to assist the Chkheidzes. A week ago, Paata Chkheidze’s wife sold the children’s clinics ‘Janmrteli Momavali’. Paata Chkheidze also sold his house in Gori and left the town.

All in all, Irakli Okruashvili and Mikheil Kareli fulfilled their promise to the Gori population made before the revolution. Okruashvili became a favorite of Gori people by fighting against the ‘Laini’ destroyers. More than 5,000 people in Gori were employed at the ‘Laini’ and it is no trivial matter to win the hearts of 5,000 families. It was also said that having got rid of the Chkheidzes and Gelashvili, Okruashvili and Kareli would get hold of the ‘Laini’; however they could not get away with this because of Vano Merabishvili’s presence in the law enforcement community.

Saba Tsitsikashvili, Gori

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