Cable case: Defence Ministry officials guilty of misspending 4.1m GEL

The five officials were arrested on October 28, 2014 for their alleged role in a sham procurement in 2013. Photo by IPN, 16 May 2016 - 16:06, Tbilisi,Georgia

Five officials employed by Georgia’s Ministry of Defence have been found guilty of misspending 4.1 million GEL.

Tbilisi City Court today delivered a verdict into the high profile case involving four serving and one former Defence Ministry officials. The men were found guilty of misspending 4.1 million GEL and sentenced to a seven-year prison term.

The five officials were arrested on October 28, 2014 for their role in a sham procurement in 2013 where they manipulated a tender, resulting in a private company gaining an unfair pecuniary advantage.

The arrested men were former head of the Ministry’s Procurements Department Gizo Glonti and two serving officials from the same department Giorgi Lobzhanidze and Archil Alavidze as well as head of the Communications and IT Department of General Staff of the Georgian Armed Forces Nugzar Kaishauri and Davit Tsipuria from the same department.

The case was commonly referred to as the ‘cable case’.

In Court today the judge said the accused arranged a sham tender in 2013 to lay a fiber optic cable and procure networking equipment. The Court said more than 4.1 million GEL was misspent in the tender and the men violated Georgia’s tender laws when they "gave an advantage” to Silknet, one of the country’s largest telecommunications operators.

Subsequently the Ministry signed a 6.7 million GEL contract when the services were worth 2.6 million GEL.

After their arrest in October last year, the five men spent almost eight months in pre-trial detention before being released in June, 2015. After their release four were reinstated to their jobs by Defence Minister Tinatin Khidasheli. Today the five men were arrested inside Court.

Cable case prosecutor Nino Aglemashvili said today’s verdict was proof that "the country’s law enforcers adequately reacted to misspending budget funds”.

Georgia’s former defence minister Irakli Alasania, who was dismissed in November 2014 by then-Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, today said he had complete confidence in the integrity of his employees and the cable case judge was "politically motivated”.

The lawyers of the five men said they would appeal the verdict. They have one month to officially file appeal papers.

Garibashvili dismissed Alasania on November 4, 2014 after he said the criminal investigation into the Ministry of Defence was "obviously politically motivated” and an "attack on Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic choice”.

One day after Alasania’s dismissal, Maia Panjikidze and Alexi Petriashvili, who are allies of Alasania and members of Alasania’s Free Democrats party resigned from their roles as Georgia’s Foreign Minister and the State Minister of the Europe and Euro-Atlantic Integration respectively.

Shortly after this the Free Democrats left the Georgian Dream coalition to become an opposition.