US Foreign Agents Registration Act documents expose “political corruption against Georgia” - Parliament Speaker

Speaker Shalva Papuashvili alleged “political corruption” was present in the efforts on specific  topics. Photo: Shalva Papuashvili’s Facebook, 30 Nov 2023 - 14:47, Tbilisi,Georgia

Shalva Papuashvili, the Georgian Parliament Speaker, on Thursday said disclosures of the United States-based firms with the country’s Department of Justice as part of the Foreign Agents Registration Act had “shed light on the extent of political corruption against Georgia” by lobbyists hired by the imprisoned former President Mikheil Saakashvili and affiliated groups.  

The comment follows the use of disclosure of the US law firm Akerman in July, where the documents showed the firm had been involved in drawing up a draft resolution for the European Parliament that was critical of the Georgian Government around Saakashvili’s imprisonment. It showed the organisation’s preparation of articles about Saakashvili’s health condition for international media and lobbying of US senators and UK officials for sanctions against Georgia over his alleged treatment in detention.

A February disclosure of the same firm showed it had received $917,177 from the family of Saakashvili for the purpose of lobbying US Government officials to help free the former official. 

Emphasising the “gravity of the situation”, Papuashvili alleged “political corruption” was present in the efforts on topics related to Saakashvili, the United National Movement opposition party formed by him, Bidzina Ivanishvili, the founder of the ruling Georgian Dream party and the former Prime Minister, and “Georgia in general”.

[N]ot only were the articles published in the media, but we now have direct confirmation from the FARA reports that these articles were indeed commissioned", he claimed.

Pointing to the alleged manipulation of EP resolutions, Papuashvili claimed the result of the lobbyists' work was “evident as they directly wrote the texts of resolutions for some MEPs. The European Parliament adopted these texts, effectively endorsing misinformation crafted by lobbyists".

Indicating the lobbyists’ alleged communication with “representatives of various embassies” in Georgia, the Parliament official claimed the effort had been carried out as "typical political corruption" and pointed to “unfortunate challenge” within EU structures. 

Unfortunately, this topic remains opaque in the EU space, but thanks to US legislation, we occasionally obtain such crucial information", he noted, and said subsequent disclosures could provide further information about the “anti-state” activities. 

Responding to a march planned by a part of domestic non-governmental organisations on December 9 for “demonstrating public unity” ahead of the European Council’s decision on whether to grant Tbilisi the European Union membership candidate status, the official accused “elite NGOs” of acting against the outcome. 

He noted the planned action was likely to involve “purchase of flags and whistles, along with the consumption of coffee, all while presenting a PowerPoint presentation expressing love for Europe and Georgia” by the organisers. He alleged the actions ultimately amounted to “undermining of national interests”, a “waste of foreign grants” and contribution to a “negative perception” of Georgia's utilisation of international funds.

He claimed unspecified NGOs had been engaged in actions to hamper the election of the county’s new Public Defender earlier this year in an effort to delay the fulfilment of one of the 12 conditions for Georgia’s EU candidacy, spark tensions to replace the Government and make calls against the bloc granting Tbilisi the status until a transfer of Saakashvili from domestic detention to treatment outside the country. 

Speaking about the next year’s parliamentary elections, the official claimed a majority of domestic opposition groups were “affiliated” with UNM, before saying the vote would present a choice between “national interests” represented by the current ruling power and an “anti-state [opposition] coalition”.