Court finds ex-Defence Minister not guilty of smuggling alcohol

Kezerashvili currently faces criminal charges into two separate cases in Georgia. Photo by AFP, 27 May 2014 - 16:36, Tbilisi,Georgia

A former Georgian Minister internationally wanted by Interpol has been found not guilty of bribing Government officials and smuggling large volumes of alcohol into Georgia.

In Tbilisi City Court today, a judge delivered a not guilty verdict for former Defence Minister David Kezerashvili, who was charged with using fake customs documents and bribery when importing a substantial number of alcohol goods across into Georgia.

While Kezerashvili was found not guilty, his brother-in-law, Meier Janashvili, was found guilty on the same charges and was sentenced to nine years imprisonment in absentia.

The Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia claimed the Kezerashvili-Janashvili smuggling scheme resulted in a loss of almost 50 million GEL from the state budget in unpaid taxes.

The Prosecution alleged Kezerashvili and Janashvili bribed officials with 12.3 million USD (21.7 million GEL) to provide protection for their alcohol smuggling scheme between 2007 and 2012.

The former Defence Minister currently lives in France despite being wanted by authorities in Georgia.

On February 27, a court in Aix-en-Provence in southern France ruled against the extradition of Kezerashvili.

Kezerashvili, 35, was the chief of the financial police from 2004 until late 2006 before he served as the country’s Defense Minister until December 2008. After this he went into private business.

Kezerashvili currently faces criminal charges into two separate cases in Georgia.

On May 7, charges where bought against Kezerashvili and former head the State Procurement Department of the Defence Ministry, Alexandre Ninua, for allegedly embezzling more than €5 million (12 million GEL).

It is alleged Kezerashvili and Ninua embezzled the money after the Ministry of Defence signing a contract with Girwood Business Corporation, which was registered in the Virgin Islands. The contract promised to conduct combat trainings for the Georgian Ministry of Defence however this never happened.

Consequently, the Ministry of Defence of Georgia suffered substantial losses as a result.

In a separate case, in February 2013 Kezerashvili and ousted Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava were charged with misappropriating state funds and money laundering.

Ugulava was charged without being arrested while Tbilisi City Court ordered Kezerashvili to pre-trial detention in absentia.

The Prosecution Office of Georgia claim Kezerashvili and Ugulava were involved in using state funds to seize Imedi TV channel in 2008.