#Khazaradze #Japaridze - Wasiwasi unakua juu ya kesi ya "kisiasa iliyosababishwa na siasa" dhidi ya wafanyabiashara wanaoongoza wa Georgia

| Septemba 11, 2019

International concern has been voiced about criminal charges brought against two leading businessmen in Georgia, with claims that the case is “political motivated”, anaandika Martin Benki.

The case involves the founder and former chairman of the board of TBC Bank, Mamuka Khazaradze and his deputy, Badri Japaridze (pichani).

In July 2019, Khazaradze and Japaridze were charged with fraud by Georgian prosecutors but there is growing anxiety because Georgian prosecutors are said to be relying on an 11-year old transaction in order to try and make a case against the two men.

There are also suspicions that the charges came soon after Khazaradze announced a new political movement in Georgia.

Zviad Kordzadze, the men’s Georgian lawyer, said the case against Khazaradze and Japaridze has gone beyond the Georgian jurisdiction and that there is now sufficient evidence to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Two experienced and well-recognized lawyers, Steven Kay QC and Vincent Berger have now also joined the men’s legal team.

Speaking at the press conference in Tbilisi, Kay said that TBC Bank is listed in UK at the London Stock Exchange and that Khazaradze and Japaridze "have provided very valuable contribution to the regional economy in Georgia”.

Kay said "their business dealings have been very influential upon the development of Georgia as an independent state."

According to Kay,a leading London-based legal expert, the situation which the two businessmen face over "a transaction that occurred 11 years ago" is "highly unusual." Kay told the journalists that "no criminal proceedings were brought against them as individuals in those 11 years despite ample opportunity for prosecutors, banking regulators or any other inquirers into the affairs of the bank."

Khazaradze, until recently, had not ventured into politics, preferring to remain in the business world with his role at TBC bank and his plans for the development of a deep-water port at Anaklia. However, his concerns over Georgia's direction, especially around police violence against Georgian protestors in June, appear to have triggered a move into politics.

Khazaradze himself recently explained: "Events in our country are taking on alarming forms. We are facing deliberate attempts to sow discord and divisiveness in our society and June 20 was a red line. If you are a citizen of this country and your heart beats for it, you can't just stand and watch all this from a distance."

The international community based in Tbilisi have raised concern about the timing of the charges, coming as they did after Khazaradze's political announcement.

One foreign journalist based in the region told this website: "It's unlikely to be a coincidence that Khzaradze gets hit with charges after he steps into politics. There are many who believe Georgia is ripe for his 'en Marche' style political movement and that he could take on the establishment parties Georgian Dream and the United National Movement."

It is also argued that Khazaradze's involvement in the Anaklia port project is another reason for the legal action against him. His role in such a game-changing transit hub would serve to increase his influence inside Georgia, which might have alarmed establishment figures such as Georgian Dream party chairman Bidzina Ivanishvili, it is said.

Georgia's neighbour Russia is also likely to oppose the port project due to the impact it would have on Russian dominance of regional transportation.

Further comment on the case comes from Fady Asly, chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), who said he is concerned that the charges are “politically motivated”, telling EU Reporter: "The aim of the prosecutor general in seizing Khazaradze and Japaridze's accounts in Georgia and [attempting to do the same]in the UK, is to cripple them financially so they would fail to complete the construction of the Port of Anaklia, but more importantly to stop them from creating their public movement that could seriously jeopardize Ivanishvili's unlawful control over the state institutions."

The UK embassy in Tbilisi has taken the unusual step of releasing a taarifa regarding concerns over the case while the US embassy raised similar concerns in a separate taarifa.

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