Ex-Tbilisi Mayor charged with money laundering and organising violence

Supporters of Gigi Ugulava have denounced his arrest as a political witch-hunt. Photo by Tbilisi.gov.ge
Agenda.ge, 04 Jul 2014 - 16:54, Tbilisi,Georgia

The former Mayor of Tbilisi has been charged with organising group violence and coercion activity in Marneuli district during the June 15 local elections which violated public order.

Earlier yesterday Gigi Ugulava, who is a campaign manager for United National Movement (UNM), was also charged with illegally accumulating money for his political party for their election campaign.

On June 5 UNM leaders including Ugulava verbally insulted the head of the Regional Election Commission in Marneuli and demanded an explanation whether he would remove UNM candidate Akmamed Imamkuliev from the election list.

Ugulava accused the CEC representative of having an approach that was "favourable to the Government”. The UNM members also challenged the Interdepartmental Commission about alleged pressure on their Governor candidate for Marneuli district.

Ugulava claimed he was innocent and his supporters said his arrest yesterday was politically motivated.

Prosecution has filed a motion with the Tbilisi City Court requesting for ordering pre-trial detention of Ugulava. Court hearing is expected for Friday evening.

Ugulava was arrested early Thursday morning while boarding a flight to Kiev, Ukraine. Before he was handcuffed by law enforcement officers, he told journalists that he was planning to return back to Georgia later on the same day, July 3, as he had been summoned for questioning by the Finance Ministry’s investigative service on July 4.

In relation to Ugulava being accused of illegally accumulating money for his political party, the legal authorities claimed Ugulava had allegedly received "black money” from an offshore registered company affiliated to ex-Defence Minister David Kezerashvili, who is wanted by Georgian authorities for a number of different charges.

Those involved in the alleged crime include Ugulava’s brother-in-law, former director of the Georgian Lottery Company Giorgi Ghoniashvili and Kezerashvili’s business partner Alexandre Gogokhia.

The other two suspects were arrested earlier by local law enforcement authorities; Ghoniashvili was sent to pre-trial detention in early July while Gogokhia has been named on a wanted list.

Ugulava, who served as Tbilisi Mayor between 2006 and 2013, is also being investigated for a number of other criminal charges.

On June 30, 2014 the Finance Ministry’s Investigative Service filed criminal charges against Ugulava for misspending and embezzlement of large amount of public funds (1,086,718 GEL) through abuse of power during his mayoral term.

Ugulava allegedly used his authority to give disproportionate priority to City Park LLC, the car parking controlling company, which artificially increased the company’s revenues by granting additional concessions by ordering 40 percent of traffic violation fees to be transferred to City Park LLC along with an additional three GEL per fee collected.

In connection to these charges Tbilisi City Court turned down the Prosecution’s motion of a 50,000 GEL bail bond and seizure of Ugulava’s travel documents and ID.

The first charges were filed against Ugulava by the Finance Ministry’s Investigative Service in December 2013. Allegations involved misspending of around 48 million GEL of public funds in 2011-2012 from the Tbilisi Development Fund, which is designed to finance rehabilitation works in old parts of Tbilisi.

The case involved creation of factious jobs and spending public money on buffet services for UNM hosted events. In connection to this investigation, four senior officials were arrested from Tbilisi municipality.

The Prosecution’s motion for Ugulava’s pre-trial detention was also turned down by the Tbilisi City Court, which instead ruled in favour of a request to suspend Ugulava from the Tbilisi Mayoral office.