President urges National Bank acting head to resign after controversy over US-sanctioned ex-Prosecutor General

President said she had “regretted” Turnava’s presentation as a member of the NBG Council last year. Photo: President’s press office, 20 Sep 2023 - 18:32, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili on Wednesday urged Natia Turnava, the Acting President of the National Bank of the country, to resign after the latter signed a decree on Tuesday that exempted Georgian citizens from being sanctioned without domestic court judgments. 

In a press briefing that came after the NBG issued the decree following the United States Department of State’s sanctioning of Otar Partskhaladze, Georgia’s former Prosecutor General, last week for his alleged ties with the Russian intelligence, Zourabichvili accused Turnava of “creating threats” to the Bank and the country’s image.

Zourabichvili also alleged Turnava had “submitted to threats” made by Irakli Kobakhidze, the head of the ruling Georgian Dream party, who on Monday slammed the National Bank’s previous decision to restrict Partskhaladze’s access to his assets and claimed the move had “directly contradicted the Constitution of Georgia and the presumption of innocence”.

Kobakhidze’s comments were followed by the NBG reversing its decision and making changes to its regulations concerning the institution’s adherence to the international sanctions placed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, with the amendments prohibiting sanctioning of Georgian nationals without rulings by domestic courts. 

The President said Turnava’s alleged acquiescence to GD official’s reactions was “even more unacceptable”, and said she regretted presenting the Acting President’s candidacy to the Bank’s Council last year, before the latter elected the former Economy Minister to the position in June 2023. 

Zourabichvili also urged the NBG Council to “take responsibility” and annul the “unilateral decree” on the sanctions to ensure the Bank’s independence and “protect its image”, adding the move was still possible, despite Wednesday’s resignation of three Vice Presidents of the NBG, as they retained power for two months before official suspension of their duties. 

In her comments on Wednesday, Turnava claimed the new amendments in the regulations on her body’s compliance with the international financial sanctions were "not aimed at protection of specific names", and added the move had been “guided by the Constitution of Georgia and the presumption of innocence”, and with the goal to “fully realise the rights and freedoms” of the country’s nationals.

The US State Department imposed sanctions against Partskhaladze on September 14, alleging the Russian Federal Security Service had worked with Partskhaladze to influence Georgian society and politics in favour of the Kremlin.

In addition to Partskhaladze, sanctions were imposed on Russian intelligence officer Alexander Onishchenko, who the State Department said had helped “his associate Partskhaladze obtain a Russian passport and possibly Russian citizenship”.