2 Jul 2015 - 18:48
The Chief Prosecutor’s Office has laid charges against Georgia’s former Defence Minister Davit Kezerashvili for extortion of property.
A special department within the Office, which investigates cases of crime committed during litigation processes, investigated allegations against Kexerashvili and concluded the former official was involved in forceful extortion of property from citizens.
Kezerashvili is currently facing separate criminal charges on two unrelated matters. Kezerashvili was named on INTERPOL’s wanted list, was found to be living in France but will not be extradited home.
Today it was revealed the investigation into Kezerashvili’s alleged misconduct came about from a complaint by former Poti Port business owner Tamaz Nizharadze.
The subsequent investigation revealed in August 2010, when Kezerashvili had immunity as a Georgian government high official, he decided to extend his business control and take hold of Poti Port Oil Terminal and two other businesses owned by father and son duo Tamaz and Zurab Nizharadze, which generated an annual income of tens of millions of GEL.
One of the businesses they owned was Bimedia Investments Ltd, which loaded oil products from ships onto train wagons.
The Office alleged Kezerashvili met with T. Nizharadze several times in Tbilisi where he threatened him and demanded all the company shares owned by T. Nizharadze and his son be transferred into Kezerashvili’s name.
Meanwhile in parallel to this, from August 15-17, 2010 a group of Special Operative officials from the Ministry of Internal Affairs were placed in T. Nizharadze’s Tbilisi home and around his property without any legal foundation, said the Chief Prosecutor’s Office. The officers obstructed T. Nizharadze from free movement, conducted continuous surveillance on him and his family and exercised psychological pressure on the businessman.
During these days Kezerashvili actively negotiated, through an intermediary, to take over the Poti Port business. He blackmailed T. Nizharadze to hand over his company’s assets otherwise the law enforcement officers would remain at his house, the Office alleged.
A few days after the threats were made, suffering from violence and psychological pressure, T. Nizharadze and his son handed over 100 percent shares of Bimedia Investments Ltd, 60.18 percent shares of mission Investment Ltd and later 52.5 percent shares in Metaleks Ltd, the value of which exceeded tens of millions of GEL. These shares were transferred free of charge to companies owned by Kezerashvili; Davor Holding Ltd, Axton Overseas Development Ltd and Steinlord Enterprises LLP.
In a bid to cover up his illegal actions, Kezerashvili created a contract that noted T. and Z. Nizharadze received two buildings worth $6 million USD in exchange for their company shares, while in reality the men did not receive anything, said the Office.
T. Nizharadze commented on the investigation charges today and noted the situation was the Prosecutor’s Office described.
'"This was exactly what happened. On August 14, 2014 I met with Kezerashvili who intimidated and harassed me. He took away everything I had built for 20 years,” said the businessman.
T. Nizharadze also accused Kezerashvili for being responsible for an explosion in his car that he was driving in May 2013.
'"This case is being investigated by police. I was interrogated after the explosion but not since then. Kezerashvili threatened me to stop urging the prosecution and the court to investigate this,” he added.
If Kezerashvili is found guilty, he will face a prison sentence of four to seven years.
The ex-official currently faces criminal charges in Georgia regarding two separate cases.
On May 7, charges where bought against Kezerashvili and Alexandre Ninua, former head the State Procurement Department of the Defence Ministry, for allegedly embezzling more than €5 million (12 million GEL).
In the other case, in February 2013 Kezerashvili and ousted Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava were charged with misappropriating millions of state funds and money laundering.
Kezerashvili is wanted internationally through INTERPOL’s Red Notice. Despite this the former Minister lives in France.
On February 27, 2015, a court in Aix-en-Provence in southern France ruled against the extradition of Kezerashvili.