Opposition Members Relatives’ Businesses Sealed Up
Since November 7th, tax inspectors have begun to raid businesses owned by relatives of opposition party members in Batumi. These private businesses have now been sealed. Although the decree allowing this mentions the, “immediate raid for tax inspection,” the inspections began fifteen days after the decree was enacted.
Thirty-six employees of the Bumerangi shop, located at #115 Chavchavadze Street in Batumi, have not been able to work for a month. Officials from the Tax Inspection agency sealed the shop up on November 7th in order to raid it, but have not yet begun their search.
Bumerangi is registered in the name of the entrepreneur Zebur Dekanadze, but the official owner of the shop is Mikheil Tavartkiladze, brother of the leader of the Adjara branch of the People’s Party, Djumber Tavartkiladze.
The entrepreneur stated that the Financial Police and Tax Inspection agency entered their shop based on an anonymous letter. “According to the letter,” Dekanadze says, “unregistered goods were delivered to the supermarket and sold in violation of the tax code. The anonymous letter also stated that the entrepreneur conducts dirty accounting and hides his real income.”
Based on this information, the shop was sealed up on November 7th and a 15-day term for executing a search of the business was granted on November 8th by the Batumi Civil Court.
“They could not produce any court decision allowing them to seal up the shop,” said Tavartkiladze, the shop’s owner. “I offered to let them start the raid and if they found any violations they could seal it up.”
The immediate raid by tax inspectors ended with the drawing up of a program of issues that should be investigated and the sealing of the shop’s accounting materials. On November 22nd, the approved time for the execution of the raid lapsed without the actual inspection being carried out at all. The Batumi Civil Court has received a new application and granted an extension. “The large amount of possible illegal activities renders the raid unable to be carried out within the estimated time,” the court decision stated. Judge Khatuna Bolkvadze granted the Tax Inspection agency an additional fifteen days. That decision was appealed in the Kutaisi Court of Appeals.
“My client and I have unsuccessfully appealed to the Batumi Tax Inspection agency to start their inspection,” lawyer Malkhaz Abuladze said. “The long-term closure of the shop materially damaged the owner as all perishable products have spoiled. We demand the right to register and resume all activities, though they refused our request.”
On November 23rd, another unit owned by Alkazar Baghaturia, the father of Jondi Bagaturia, was sealed up in Batumi. “I own 50 % of the JSC Rubber-Technical Factory in Batumi,” Alkazar Baghaturia said. “On November 23rd, I was invited to the Department regarding the closure of our business. Before the trial started, officials from the Financial Police visited the factory. They did not wait for the Court’s decision and sealed the doors. On November 26th, they began their inspection but did not state the exact reason for this unplanned examination.” The owner of the enterprise stated that the only reason for the raid is the fact that he is the father of Jondi Baghaturia. “They did not tell me about it but the leasers of certain space in our factory were warned to leave the place and were told that the income of the factory was transferred to the budget of the opposition.”
The Kandeli computer-training center, founded by Murman Dumbadze, the deputy of the Republican Party’s Adjara Supreme Council, has also been sealed. Dumbadze stated that officials from the Tax Inspection agency are artificially prolonging the duration of the inspection. “I asked them to start the raid on time because delays could damage our business. The inspector who was ordered to raid the enterprise said he felt bad himself. Their goal is to prolong the investigation and damage us.”
Eldar Varshalomidze, deputy head of the Batumi Tax Inspection agency, refused to comment on the situation. “I am not making comments. It is not a suitable topic for comments and as soon as the investigations finish, the units in question will open,” he said, just before cutting the line.
Maka Malakmadze, Batumi
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