Thea Tsulukiani, the Vice Prime Minister of Georgia, on Monday said the recent investigation by the British Broadcasting Corporation showed “everyone in Georgia” that David Kezerashvili, the wanted former Defence Minister in the United National Movement Government, was “robbing European pensioners” through an international fraud scheme.
The comment came after a BBC report on April 12 that 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 in Europe while defrauding them of funds.
Tsulukiani claimed Kezerashvili was funding a part of the domestic opposition groups and a media outlet with money “defrauded” from the European citizens and “stolen” from the Georgian armed forces during his time in office.
Kezerashvili has recognised supporting “pro-Western” groups on the domestic political scene, and owned 51 percent of shares in Formula TV, before last week announcing he would hand 25 percent to the channel’s staff following the BBC report.
It is alarming that journalists from the channel sit and preach to us how we should be Europeans and human rights defenders”, Tsulukiani said.
Giorgi Amilakhvari, the Georgian Education Minister, on Monday said the domestic law enforcement agencies were doing “their utmost” to investigate the specific case “properly”, while also noting the domestic opposition had made “no comment” and claiming it was still receiving the “stolen” money from Kezerashvili.
In his comments on the report, Pawel Herczynski, the European Union Ambassador to Georgia, on Monday said “any illegal activities should be investigated and those responsible for the illegal action should be brought to justice”.
Kezerashvili is wanted in Georgia for embezzlement of state funds during his time as the Defence Minister in the United National Movement Government 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.