PM Garibashvili: former UNM official Kezerashvili presumably behind scam call centres

Garibashvili claims that Kezerashvili supposedly organised a criminal investment network operating as call centres. Photo: Prime Minister's press office, 28 Oct 2021 - 22:41, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has said that the former official of the United National Movement (UNM), David Kezerashvili, allegedly stands behind the fraudulent call centres.

Garibashvili claims that Kezerashvili, who held the position of the minister of defense of Georgia under the UNM government, supposedly organised a criminal investment network operating as call centres.

It has been confirmed, and several foreign media outlets have also reported that behind those call centres, presumably, stands Mr. Kezerashvili. He used to have call centres in Ukraine and probably still does, Garibashvili added.

Garibashvili noted that the society will soon learn ‘additional interesting details’ regarding the case.

Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter wrote in March 2020 about the scheme of English-speaking ‘telemarketers’ who convinced victims from over 50 countries to put their money in fake investments.

The newspaper discovered that the international fraud factory was linked to a company called Milton Group, which has its headquarters in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Officially the company works with data programming and financial services. Hundreds of telemarketers sit side by side, making phone calls to all over the world in their hunt for new victims. They offer lucrative investments in cryptocurrencies and stocks, Dagens Nyheter reported.

Manual of tricking the victims into making investments. Photo: Dagens Nyheter

How can the scam call centres be connected with the former UNM officials? 

Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) published an extensive investigation regarding the scam call centres operating from Kyiv in spring 2020.

OCCRP noted that the fraudulent activities were supposedly related to Milton Group, which also owned call centres in Albania, North Macedonia, and Georgia.

OCCRP further revealed that a Georgian-born Israeli citizen Davit Todua, who is presumably linked to Milton Group’s operations, apparently has business ties with the UNM’s former officials David Kezerashvili, Gia Getsadze, and Petre Tsiskarishvili.

Todua and Kezerashvili co-own Project Partners, a real-estate and construction firm that is based out of a neighboring office building in Kyiv as Milton Group. Its head is Gia Getsadze, a former deputy justice minister in both Georgia and Ukraine.

Project Partners, in turn, co-owns a construction and civil engineering firm, Elitekomfortbud, with another former Georgian official, Petre Tsiskarishvili, a [former] minister of agriculture, OCCRP wrote.

OCCRP has found no direct evidence about the former UNM officials’ involvement in the scam call centres. However, Kezerashvili confirmed in an email ‘that he was a business partner of Todua.’

What is known about the international criminal investigation by now?

The European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation reported that Georgian, German, and Israeli authorities dismantled a criminal network which defrauded ‘victims of at least tens of millions of euros.’

In addition, Law360 published an article about the arrest of Georgian and Israeli online scammers, who convinced their victims to invest in ‘fraudulent financial products.’

On October 21, Georgian law enforcement officials arrested seven people who ‘fraudulently embezzled millions of euros from German citizens and laundered illegal income.’ They allegedly set up dozens of fake call centres to perform fraudulent operations.

Kezerashvili has been on the run since 2012. He fled Georgia after the UNM lost the parliamentary elections to Georgian Dream (GD).

The former defense minister currently holds a 51% stake in opposition-minded Formula TV.