Communications Commission Chair says company's corruption investigation calls “absurd”

Kakha Bekauri, the Chair of the ComCom, rejected a statement by MagtiCom, which called for an Anti-Corruption Bureau investigation of his work, as “absurd accusations”. Photo: ComCom, 31 Jan 2024 - 12:54, Tbilisi,Georgia

Kakha Bekauri, the Chair of the Georgian National Communications Commission, on Wednesday rejected a statement by the domestic internet and mobile telecommunications operator MagtiCom, which on Tuesday called for an Anti-Corruption Bureau investigation of his work, as “absurd accusations”. 

Bekauri’s comments were following the company’s raising of questions about his shareholding in a local supermarket chain and in the Skhva Arkhi company, as well as the participation of his spouse in a masterclass project of the Media Academy of the Commission. 

The Chair said his shares in the store chain was “in full compliance with law” and added the Skhva Arkhi company was “not a legal entity within the scope of the Commission's regulation”.

On allegations regarding his spouse's participation in the masterclass, Bekauri said she had “shared her many years of journalistic knowledge and experience with budding and active journalists without any compensation” in the event. 

The Commission Chair added  “any interested individual” could “easily verify” the facts around the involvement in his wife's public asset declaration, where he said “no income” from the Academy was registered to her.

The feeble attempts of Magticom to shift the focus from the main problems to fictional topics are directly related to the activities and decisions of the Communications Commission, which is aimed at improving competition in the telecom market. In this way, MagtiCom is trying to blatantly interfere and influence the activities of the Commission”, Bekauri said in his rejection of the company's calls.

He added a “possible motive” for MagtiCom’s “open confrontation” was steps taken by the Commission to “open up the market”, including its study of prices for mobile and fixed services, the results of which were “alarming and noteworthy”.

The study released earlier this month said the service for providing fixed internet at speeds of 100 Mbps was 136 percent more expensive in Georgia compared to European states, while costs for mobile internet packages with 10 GB of data and 1795 minutes of talk time were 35 percent higher in the country.

The results of the research conducted by European experts show a grim picture in the [domestic] telecom market. These results are known to MagtiCom, they also know the Commission will make effective and effective decisions in accordance with the European legislation in order to improve the Georgian telecom market and provide consumers with the appropriate quality and price after completing the research”, Bekauri said.

He added while the public had “not yet seen the complete results” of the research, MagtiCom was “well-aware” of the “documents and recommendations” prepared by European experts, who he said were recommending additional regulations on the company in order to improve the market. 

The official claimed the company was “aware of the possible decisions” of the Commission that could lead to “new requirements” being imposed on the business entity. He said the threat meant the company was “trying to blatantly interfere” in the activities of the Commission and “influence its decisions” - an alleged attempt he called “weak” and added the “absurd accusations” would “fail to affect the Commission's activities”.

MagtiCom later released a statement in response to Bekauri’s comments, in which the company said the Commission Chair had “attempted to influence the objective study of the [alleged corruption] issue by the Bureau by his own assessments” before the investigation was over. 

The company said Bekauri’s labelling of the allegations as “absurd” before the Bureau’s investigation into them meant “simply [voicing] his wish and not the reality”, and added it would also “inform the public about other activities” of the body's Chair.