The Tbilisi Court of Appeals on Monday upheld the City Court verdict of embezzlement of state funds against David Kezerashvili, the former Defence Minister of Georgia in the United National Movement Government, and ordered him to pay a €5,060,000 compensation to the Ministry.
The Court also ordered the former official, who currently holds a 51 percent stake in the opposition-minded Formula TV channel in Georgia, to pay a ₾3,000 ($1,149) fine to the state budget.
In the ruling, the Court rejected the Ministry’s claims against another defendant in the case, Aleksandre Ninua, who worked as the Head of the Procurement Department of the body, and ordered the Ministry to pay him the ₾5,000 ($1,915) appeal fee.
Kezerashvili and Ninua had been charged with abuse of office and embezzlement of large sums of state budget by the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia in 2021.
The case is related to the transfer of a “large amount of money” by the Ministry for services of Girwood Business Corporation, a company registered in an offshore zone, during Kezerashvili’s time in office. The Ministry claimed it had not received the services.
The Tbilisi City Court in March 2022 fully upheld the claim of the Ministry and ordered Kezerashvili and Ninua to pay a €5,060,000 compensation to the body.
Responding to the ruling, Irakli Kobakhidze, the head of the ruling Georgian Dream party, on Tuesday said Kezerashvili had been engaged in “racketeering business, robbery of the Georgian armed forces and commission of a number of offences” while in office, adding his status of founder of the media outlet would “not serve as an escape from justice”.
He also highlighted Kezerashvili could “travel freely” throughout Europe “despite all these [crimes]”, following the 2014 and 2016 refusals by French and British courts respectively to extradite him to Georgia.
Aleko Elisashvili, the leader of the opposition Citizens party, said earlier on Tuesday Kezserashvili had “stolen millions” during his time in office, adding the former Minister had “robbed one of the most respectable institutions in Georgia”, in reference to the armed forces.
A number of criminal proceedings have been brought against Kezerashvili since the change of Government in Georgia in late 2012. In two of them, heard in Georgian courts, Kezerashvili was convicted in absentia.
Kezerashvili served as the head of Georgia’s Financial Police between 2004 and 2006, and then as the Defence Minister until 2008, before his switch to business activities.