Former sports minister in Omega case: we staged audio recording to deliberately discredit the gov’t

4 Oct 2018 - 11:23

  • Former minister of sport and mediator in the Omega Group’s negotiations Levan Kipiani was questioned at the Chief Prosecutor’s Office yesterday. Photo: Ministry of Sport press office., 4 Oct 2018 - 11:23, Tbilisi,Georgia

Former minister of sport and mediator in the Omega Group’s negotiations with the government Levan Kipiani says the audio recordings broadcast by Rustavi 2 were staged.

Kipiani says he and the founder of Omega Group, Zaza Okuashvili, recorded the fake audio tracks in the summer of 2018 to deliberately discredit the government.

Kipiani has come forward in the wake of Okuashvili’s allegations of business corruption against the government. The ruling Georgian Dream party dismisses the allegations and says Okuashvili is trying to avoid his financial obligations to the state budget and the Bank of Georgia.

The former minister of sport between 2012 - 2015, Kipiani says he was hired in 2015 by the Omega Group to serve as mediator in negotiations with other businesses and the government to help the corporation settle its financial problems.

Kipiani claims in the summer of 2018, Okuashvili came to him and said that he was having problems with foreign business partners, who would allow him to repay his debts on a longer schedule if he could show that he was subject to government pressure.

Okuashvili told me that the audio recordings would only be sent to his foreign partners”, Kipiani said.

It was naïve of me, but I agreed to record the files, in which me and Okuashvili speak about governmental pressure on business,” Kipiani said, further explaining that he was motivated by a promise from Okuashvili to make good on a salary payment that had not been made in three years.

Okuashvili says that he had no financial obligations to his foreign partners and stated that he is ready to answer to the questions of law enforcers, but not in Georgia.

He says that he is in the UK and that a return to Georgia would be a threat to his life.

  • The Omega Group has more than 50 million GEL in debt to the state, while its debt to the Bank of Georgia exceeds 84 million GEL.
  • The business says that under the Georgian Dream leadership its cigarette company OGT suffered $100 million in losses after multinational company British American Tobacco, “which was lobbied by the Georgian Dream government officials”, violated the laws on competition and tobacco control.
  • The corporation says that they had to take loans to cover their necessary expenses for the corporation’s staff and their dues to the state, however, they failed to meet their financial obligations.
  • Omega Group says that they appealed to the government in 2017 to have their debt restructured, “but the government ignored the problem” which led to a further increase in financial debt.
  • Omega leadership also says that former and current top Georgian officials demanded money to solve their issues.