The former Director General of opposition-minded TV channel Rustavi 2, Nika Gvaramia, has been charged with abuse of power.
The Georgian Prosecutor’s Office announced yesterday that due to Gvaramia’s actions Rustavi 2 suffered losses of 6,763,510 GEL (about $2,308,365/€2,062,045).
The prosecution says that on January 16, 2015 Gvaramia, as the director general of Rustavi 2, signed an agreement on behalf of the TV channel with Inter Media Plus, owned by his friends. The agreement allowed the company to place commercial ads on Rustavi 2 free of charge.
As a result, in 2015, Rustavi 2 faced 7,377,230 GEL (about $2,517,825/€2,249,155) of declared damage, whereas Inter Media Plus received 8,690,664 GEL (about $2,966,096/€2649592) of declared profit.
The investigation was initially launched on July 20 based on a complaint lodged by a former nine per cent shareholder, Nino Nizharadze, the prosecutor's office said.
Gvaramia denies the charges, saying corruption and theft are his "red lines". Linking the charges against him with his critical attitude to the ruling Georgian Dream party chairman Bidzina Ivanishvili, Gvaramia said he will fight till the end.
Meanwhile, former Rustavi 2 shareholders, brothers Giorgi and Levan Karamanishvili, released a statement supporting Gvaramia. They said the TV company has grown significantly under his management and Rustavi 2 has been "the symbol of the freedom of speech and critical mind" in Georgia throughout many years.
Therefore, they consider the charges against ex-director general "obvious political persecution, which has nothing to do with law or justice".
Established in 1994, Rustavi 2 changed ownership numerous times between 2004 and 2012. Photo: Nino Alavidze/Agenda.ge
A European Court of Human Rights ruling on July 18 effectively allowed the return of 100 per cent of the channel’s shares to its former owner Kibar Khalvashi, who argued that Rustavi 2 was illegally seized from him by the former United National Movement (UNM) government in 2006.
Later, Khavlashi appointed his lawyer Paata Salia as the channel’s new director general, replacing Gvaramia, who had held the position from 2014.