Five years jail for Merabishvili and fine for Tchiaberashvili

Merabishvili said two Russian advisers had been involved in Mukhrovani case; Photo by RFE/RL, 17 Feb 2014 - 13:35, Tbilisi,Georgia

Two Georgian former high officials have been found guilty for their role in a fake employment program. 

Former Prime Minister Vano Merabishvili and Zurab Tchiaberashvili, who at the time was Minister of Heath and former Governor of the Kakheti region, have been found guilty in the so called ‘employment’ case.

Today in Kutaisi City Court, Merabishvili was sentenced to five years imprisonment for indifferently using the authority, funneling more than 5 million GEL of public funds into United National Movement’s party’s election campaign and illegally appropriating a country cottage in Gonio,  on the Black Sea coast of Georgia.

Once he is released, Merabishvili will not be allowed to fill a governmental post for 18 months.

Tchiaberashvili was fined 50 000 GEL ($29 000 USD) for his role in the offending and was released on bail.

Both men deny charges were politically motivated.

More than 100 of approximately 4,000 witnesses requested by the Prosecution have so far been questioned during the ongoing trial. The questioned witnesses were people who were formally hired and paid to register unemployed persons in the lead up to the October 2012 parliamentary elections, but were in fact used by the UNM party as activists for campaigning purposes, the prosecution claimed.

The state Prosecution and lawyers of the accused were dissatisfied by the court verdict and said they would appeal against the sentence.

Meanwhile, the former Prime Minister has also been accused of being involved in two other cases. The first related to Sandro Girgvliani’s murder case in 2006, where Prosecutors allege Merabishvili, who at the time was the Interior Minister, took part in a series of premeditated actions aimed at covering up evidence in an attempt to obstruct officials from establishing truth in the murder case.

In the second instance, Merabishvili has been charged with "exceeding official powers with aggravated circumstances”in connection to breaking up a protest rally in Tbilisi center on May 26, 2011.

Merabishvili would have been sentenced to eight years imprisonment if Parliament did not cancel an article in the Criminal Code in May 2013, which outlined withdrawing penalties of the crimes. The Criminal Code now reads that the more severe verdict will absorb the less severe one, as it was in Merabishvili’s case.