US Ambassador calls BBC investigation on wanted ex-Defence Minister “important component” for investigation

  • The United States Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan on Thursday commented on the BBC investigation involving Georgia’s former Defence Minister. Photo: US Embassy press office, 13 Apr 2023 - 12:50, Tbilisi,Georgia

The United States Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan on Thursday said the investigation by the British Broadcasting Corporation on alleged links of the wanted former Defence Minister David Kazerashvili with a fraud scheme against European citizens was an “important component” and said she hoped the Georgian authorities would have the opportunity to investigate the allegations in its own inquiry. 

In comments for the media on the investigative report - which said Kezerashvili had been shown to be involved in the scheme that offered European citizens investment opportunities while defrauding them - the diplomat highlighted the importance of investigative journalism. 

When asked whether her Government planned to impose sanctions on Kezerashvili - who owns shares in the Georgian-based, opposition-minded Formula TV channel - in a move similar to the Department of State’s decision to sanction four acting and former Georgian judges last week for alleged corruption, Degnan said the US authorities did not announce such measures in advance. 

In its investigation, the BBC 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 scheme, in which fake call centre operators pretending to represent legitimate agencies offered investment opportunities to their targets while defrauding them of funds.

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.