Georgian authorities in “large-scale investigation” with partners to solve fraudulent call centre scheme - Vice PM

  • Georgian Vice Prime Minister Thea Tsulukiani on Monday commented on the fraudulent call centre scheme. Photo: Government press office, 15 May 2023 - 16:02, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian Vice Prime Minister Thea Tsulukiani on Monday said the country’s Prosecutor General’s Office was involved in a “large-scale” transnational investigation on a fraudulent call centre scheme that had defrauded European citizens over the years.

Tsulukiani’s comments come after a recent report by the British Broadcasting Corporation linking the scheme with Georgia’s wanted former Defence Minister David Kezerashvili. 

In its report, the BBC last month 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 operators contacted citizens with offers of investing their savings in profitable businesses before appropriating their funds.

Pointing to the importance of the investigative piece, the Georgian official stressed Kezerashvili, who owns shares in the domestic Formula TV channel, and his “entourage” should face questions related to the scheme.

Instead of directing arrows at others, Kezerashvili and his entourage should answer the legal questions facing them”, Tsulukiani said in reference to Kezerashvili’s allegations of the Georgian Government’s cooperation with the Kremlin and backsliding in the country’s democratic development.

Kezerashvili claimed in April the BBC report was a “product” of a personal grudge towards him by a journalist of the Times of Israel newspaper, and accused the reporter of a smear campaign aimed at damaging his “business reputation” while announcing a legal dispute against the British channel. 

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 earlier this year upholding the City Court verdict on the case and ordering him to pay €5,060,000 in compensation to the Ministry.