Georgian Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili on Wednesday said the BBC investigation that alleged links between the wanted former Defence Minister David Kezerashvili and a scheme defrauding European pensioners was a source of a “scandal” for members of the European Parliament who had claimed the former official was a media manager being “persecuted” in Georgia in a resolution adopted by the EP.
Papuashvili’s comment followed the BBC’s investigation into a fraudulent “call centre” scheme allegedly involving Kezerashvili, made public in a report that on Wednesday detailed a global network of a scam operation targeting customers.
The Parliament Speaker commented on the development by saying Kezerashvili had been a part of a “criminal system” in Georgia whose high political officials had been tried by criminal law.
In June 2022, the European Parliament passed a resolution, shortly before the decision on whether to grant us [the EU candidate] status. This resolution also created a negative background for not giving us the status. [In the resolution] [t]he European Parliament recorded David Kezerashvili's name, expressed sympathy towards him and referred to him as a persecuted person. I think for the MEPs who were the initiators and supporters of this resolution, the BBC investigation is really a scandal”, Papuashvili said.
“They added the name of an international criminal to their own resolution, as if he was a persecuted media manager. This is really a scandal, and a scandal not only for them, but also for members of the European Parliament who were the initiators of this resolution”, the head of the legislative body continued.
In its investigation, the British broadcaster said the Panama Papers - the 11.5 million documents leaked in 2016 to show financial dealings of wealthy individuals and officials across the world - had shown Kezerashvili to be at the centre of the fraudulent scheme that offered European citizens investment opportunities while defrauding them.
Kezerashvili is wanted in Georgia for embezzlement of state funds during his time in office between 2006-2008, with the Tbilisi Court of Appeals last month upholding the City Court verdict on the case and ordering him to pay €5,060,000 in compensation to the Ministry of Defence.