Ex-Tbilisi Mayor faces new criminal charges

Gigi Ugulava has today been charged with embezzling more than a million GEL from the state budget.
Agenda.ge, 30 Jun 2014 - 16:02, Tbilisi,Georgia

New criminal charges have been laid against former Tbilisi Mayor and United National Movement (UNM) party leader Gigi Ugulava.

The former Mayor has today been charged with embezzling more than a million GEL from the state budget. The new charge against Ugulava was announced by the Investigation Service of the country’s Finance Ministry.

Ugulava was interrogated for three hours at the Investigation Service of Finance Ministry today.

At a special briefing today, Ministry representative Giorgi Grdzelishvili said in December 2007, the ex-Mayor signed an agreement on behalf of the Government with private company ‘City Park’, and by doing this, Ugulava intentionally disregarded the state budget. It is alleged he squandered 1, 086,718 GEL state funds in favour of ‘City Park’, which saw the company gain additional advantages.

In recent hours Deputy Tbilisi Mayor Irakli Abesadze responded in Ugulava’s favour and said it was "impossible” to charge Ugulava based on this document, as a final report about the agreement had been issued by the Ministry of Justice not City Hall.

After being questioned, Ugulava said Georgia had a "cynical justice system”, which stemmed from former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili. The Ex-Mayor also noted that the main witness in his case was former UNM member Koba Bekauri.

"When I heard that the main witness was Koba Bekauri, I had to think for five minutes about how he was even connected to this case,” Ugulava said.

In response, Bekauri said: "Gigi Ugulava is well aware of my status regarding the City Park case.” He noted in 2005, he invited this company to Georgia with the purpose of implementing a parking system.

"In 2007, when I left Parliament, for unknwon reasons, Ugulava and his friends met with representatives of the company and made them win in the tender.”

He said Ugulava and another City Hall official, Mamuka Akhvlediani, held a meeting in Israel and told company members Bekauri was out of the business and suggested they give Bekauri’s shares to them.

An official investigation into the alleged crimes is being conducted under Article 182 of the Criminal Code of Georgia. If Ugulava is found guilty, he could face a prison sentence from seven to 11 years.

The Ministry spokesperson also noted Ugulava had planned to leave the country without informing the authorities.

"As you know, Gigi Ugulava is facing other charges as well, and despite this, he was going to leave the country without informing the Court and investigative services. We had operative information that he was going to evade the investigation,” Grdzelishvili said.

Minister of Justice Tea Tsulukiani also commented on the case and noted a recently adopted moratorium to halt legal proceedings against people involved in the 2014 Municipal Elections, did not automatically give immunity to everyone.

The moratorium was issued on April 14 by Georgia’s Prime Minister to help ensure a free and fair election.

Tsulukiani said: "If it turns out that Mr. Ugulava wanted to leave the country, as he himself noted, I do not exclude that this was in response to him being summoned by investigators. The moratorium is not immunity, privilege, but an opportunity to give all political activists the opportunity to participate in free elections campaigns.”

Ugulava was earlier charged for alienating TV Imedi in 2008 and Rike, exclusive territory on the Mtkvari riverbank in Old Tbilisi, as well as misspending more than 70 million GEL from the Tbilisi Developing Fund, which was established in 2010 for the capital city’s rehabilitation.