Investigation opens into alleged UNM fraudulent scheme

Gigi Ugulava's relative will be pressed charges today., 04 Jun 2014 - 13:30, Tbilisi,Georgia

The Investigating Service of Georgia's Finance Ministry announced officials had opened an investigation into an alleged money laundering scheme by ex-ruling party United National Movement (UNM).

Investigators today said UNM had accumulating money for the election in an illegal way.

Giorgi Ghoniashvili, a relative of UNM leader and ousted Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava was arrested yesterday evening carrying 283,600 GEL ($160,000 USD).

Ghoniashvili was charged today for money laundering and bribe. Through his lawyers, Ghoniashvili claimed he was not guilty of the charges against him.

A statement released by the Finance Ministry’s Investigating Service said Ghoniashvili was involved in a fraudulent scheme where UNM were laundering money for their election campaign.

The investigation claimed Ghoniashvili was aware that the owner of Gudauri Ski Resort also owned another company, named Brooktrade, which was registered offshore. Investigators claimed Ghoniashvili asked the owner to finance political party UNM for the elections, to which the owner agreed.

According to the scheme, a company belonging to former Georgian official David Kezerashvili would transfer money to Brooktrade in exchange for consulting services. After this, on the basis of a fictitious contract, the money would be transferred to UNM in Georgia.

Investigators said the cost of the contract was $1.5 million USD (2.6 million GEL). The sum of money already transferred according to the false agreement made up $760 000 USD (1.3 million GEL).

Investigators also believed Ghoniashvili asked one of the owners of Gudauri Ski Resort to abolish a $193,000 USD (342,000 GEL) fine with the help of Ugulava, in exchange for 50,000 GEL.

Investigators said they were continuing to identify all parties involved in this case of "organised crime”.

Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said this was a case of economic crime. He stressed the reason why officials were investigating the case was not politically motivated.

"We saw the criminal scheme. Money was transferred from Kezerashvili's offshore company then laundered and used for financing the UNM party. This is unacceptable, and this is the crime. It will be investigated and all participant of the scheme will be punished," the PM said at the meeting with media today.