Georgia: an era of seizures, impoundments and fines
Author: By Archil Sikharulidze
The State Audit Office of Georgia (formerly the Chamber of Control), continue a series of questionable seizures. On July 25, the Tbilisi City Court ruled to freeze the Georgian Development Research Institute (GDRI) account in the Tbilisi-based Progress Bank. The GDRI is a Tbilisi-based think-tank founded nine-months ago by two Georgian Dream Coalition members Gia Khukhashvili and Vakhtang Khmaladze, along with independent expert Zaza Shatirishvili. The institution was mainly funded by Bidzina Ivanishvili.
In its explanation letter, Tbilisi City Court emphasized that GDRI is not legally eligible to receive information about the ongoing investigation into the case, because GDRI does not represent a party into the case. As a result, GDRI is not able to even appeal the ruling regarding the freezing of its bank account to a higher court.
It is not the first time when Tbilisi’s City Court delivered a verdict against an organization or an individual tied to the Georgian Dream Coalition– particularly with regard to Bidzina Ivanishvili. The long list of seizures, impoundments and fines compels one to believe that the government has launched a ‘seizures era’ in Georgia against the Georgian Dream Coalition, Bidzina Ivanishvili and all organizations, institutions or individuals somehow connected with the main Georgian oppositional force.
Everything began with the transformation of the Chamber of Control into the State Audit Office of Georgia. It is now an independent public institution, which conducts audits on the state budget, public finances and activities of the public administration. Presently, this body is actively involved in auditing the activities of political parties during this pre-election period.
Global TV, the Georgian cable operator and satellite TV provider which was forcefully closed by the State Audit Office of Georgia was one the first links in the chain. In June of this year, the State Audit Office sent documents to the public prosecutor’s office accusing Global TV of vote buying. Consequently, the organization is co-owned by Bidzina Ivanishvili’s brother Alexander and soon after, they had their satellite dishes seized. Global TV was the only cable operator broadcasting so-called opposition TV channels in the Georgian regions such as Channel 9.