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Critical response on Chamber of Control’s latest actions

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, May 24
The Monitoring Department of the Chamber of Control, which is now obliged to monitor the finances of Georgian political parties, issued a conclusion concerning the violation of the new law. Based on the report it published on May 22, 2012, the Chamber of Control declared that Bidzina Giorgobiani made an illegal donation of 90,000 UERO to the charitable fund Komagi. This donation was found to break the Law on Political Unions. Giorgiobiani was sent a protocol for the administrative case and was also provided a time and date for the administrative proceedings.

The Chamber of Control claims that the Komagi fund is associated with Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream opposition coalition and its political aims are known and its purposes are politically motivated. According to the Chamber of Control, Giorgobiani’s oppositional aspirations are not hidden either, stating that he is the international secretary of the Conservative Party (currently one of the member parties of the Georgian Dream). “On May 10, 2012, this person carried out an illegal donation and violated the current regulations from an unlicensed bank in Georgia,” the Chamber of Control stated.

Giorgobiani has responded strongly to the Chamber of Control by underscoring the fact that he will not leave the issue as it is now. Giorgobiani explained that beginning in 2006, he was no longer a Georgian citizen; he is a German national, and from 2011 refused to be the international secretary of the Conservative Party. “Currently I am not in any party and I can confirm this. How could I donate money for political purposes, when I do not belong to any political party and the fund for which I made the donation is also not a political party? As for me, I do not have a political shelter, I am a German citizen and it is not my private donation. The donation has been carried out by the Ost Europa charitable fund - Media und Geselshaft. I am the fund’s executive director. I assisted and fulfilled a task for the fund Komagi, which would have in turn, helped prisoners’ families and those people who have been dismissed from their jobs,” he explained. He also pointed out that he expected that the government might attempt to cause him problems, but didn’t know exactly what they would do. “They are looking for political reasons and motives, and are changing the constitution several times a week …”

The Komagi charitable fund announced on May 14 that they would provide “legal aid, moral and financial support to those, who had been victims of the current regime’s political repression.” The charity has also offered monetary aid ranging from GEL 1,500 to GEL 5,000 to families of political prisoners.

As the head of the fund, Ia Metreveli explained that the idea behind the fund came after several people were dismissed from their jobs and pressure was placed on families the current regime felt were associated with Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream coalition. After the statements, the media speculated that the fund was related to the Georgian Dream. Metreveli rejected this claim, stating that the fund had absolutely no connection with the Georgian billionaire.

A group of NGOs, among them Transparency International-Georgia; the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association; and the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, released a joint statement on May 15. In the statement they shared mutual concerns about the state audit agency with regards to the fund. They emphasized that Georgian law bans political parties from directly or indirectly offering, promising or providing money, services or other advantages to their constituents in order to prevent the buying of votes. Thus, they appealed to all political actors to refrain from any activities that could be perceived as bribing voters by offering free services or gifts in order to increase their public support.

Statements regarding the fund’s connection to the political coalition were flatly rejected by the political group’s representatives. The leader of Republican Party, Tina Khidasheli denied having any links to the fund.

Archil Kbilashvili, a lawyer and a member of Ivanishvili’s political party, outlined that the fund’s actions would not have been against the law, as bribing voters is an action where an individual promises material benefit in exchange for support in the elections. “In this case the foundation’s activities will only assist those figures and families who will fall under the authorities’ repressions. So it is not acceptable to put the foundation’s activities under the voter- bribing category,” Kbilashvili said.