Georgian authorities investigating ex-official’s alleged links with Russian FSB despite “no evidence” in US sanctioning - ruling party MP

Mamuka Mdinaradze, the head of the ruling Georgian Dream party in the Parliament, on Wednesday commented on the US-sanctioning of former official Otar Partskhaladze. Photo: Georgian Dream press office, 15 Nov 2023 - 16:14, Tbilisi,Georgia

Mamuka Mdinaradze, the head of the ruling Georgian Dream party in the Parliament, on Wednesday said the country’s State Security Service was investigating alleged links of Otar Partskhaladze, the former Prosecutor General of Georgia, with Russian intelligence “despite no evidence” having been provided by United States authorities in their sanctioning of the former official.

Mdinaradze’s comment came following an interview of Robin Dunnigan, the newly appointed US Ambassador to Georgia, with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Georgian service this week, in which she said governments could see her country’s sanctions on specific individuals as an “indication” to look into the cases and investigate them. 

In his comments, the GD official said the Georgian Government had “indeed taken the sanctioning as an indication” and “immediately opened an investigation” into the case “in respect” for the “strategic partner state and its authority”, even considering “no evidence” provided in support of the US Department of State sanctions. 

“As far as I know, no one has provided any evidence in the case so far. If I am mistaken, you [journalists] can address a relevant body and we will change our stance”, Mdinaradze said, adding he would refrain from commenting on whether he believed the investigation would be closed in the case as the outcome was “beyond the authority” of MPs. 

Grigol Liluashvili, the head of the SSS, last month said his office had not received “any evidence” from the US which could prove the guilt of Partskhaladze, and added the latter left the country shortly after his summoning for an interview the same month. 

Liluashvili said Partskhaladze had admitted during the interview he had obtained Russian citizenship, as indicated in the US Department of State document, which caused the termination of his Georgian citizenship by the President in October. 

The SSS launched its investigation into Partskhaladze’s case on September 15 under the article which involves providing assistance to foreign organisations or subordinate organisations in hostile activities, with the crime punishable by seven to 15 years in prison. 

The US State Department on September 14 said it had sanctioned Partskhaladze - who held the official post between November-December 2013 under the Georgian Dream Government - for “influencing Georgian society and politics for the benefit of Russia”. 

The US state body said Aleksandr Onishchenko, an officer of Russia’s security agency FSB who has also been sanctioned along with the Georgian former official, had “likely assisted his associate Partskhaladze in obtaining a Russian passport and possibly Russian citizenship”, and added the former Georgian Prosecutor General had “fully taken on a Russian identity and routinely travels to Russia”.