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Ex-mayor arrested

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, July 4
The ex-Mayor Gigi Ugulava was arrested at Tbilisi International Airport early morning on July 3. The Finance Ministry’s investigation service states that Ugulava was arrested over a scheme through which he was receiving “black money” from an offshore company affiliated with ex-defense minister Davit Kezerashvili, who is on the wanted list. The investigation states that 760,000 USD was laundered in the scheme which then was used by Ugulava to fund UNM opposition party’s campaign. The arrest came about 12 hours after the Tbilisi City Court rejected the prosecution’s motion seeking seizure of Ugulava’s passport to prevent him from traveling abroad.

Ugulava does not admit to the crime, stressing that his detention has a political layer related to the former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili.

“The fact that I do not lean my head for Ivanishvili is the key reason for which I am arrested now,” Ugulava said at the airport.

Former Secretary of the Security Council Giga Bokeria, with whom Ugulava was going to leave for Ukraine that day, stated that Ugulava’s detention aims at putting pressure on the United National Movement and destroying the major opposition party in the country. Ugulava’s lawyers state that law-enforcement violated procedures while detaining the ex-mayor and did not permit him to talk with his lawyers.

“The government violated a moratorium announced by the Prime Minister during election period. They also stamped on the court’s decision. Such activities affect the country’s democratic image,” Bokeria states.

The Georgian Dream coalition members stressed that Ugulava’s detention is entirely up to the law enforcement agency. According to them, the case had nothing to do with politics.

“Everyone is equal against the law… being in government or opposition should not be an indulgence for anyone,” the majority party claims.

Commenting on the issue, NGOs Transparency International Georgia (TI) and Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association(GYLA) state that Ugulava’s detention was in violation of the moratorium announced by the government.

“It was stated by the investigation that there was an urgent need for the detention. However, there are no clear signs that Ugulava would not have appeared before the law enforcement bodies if he had been summoned,” the head of GYLA Kakha Kozhoridze said.

“If the law enforcement make us believe that there was an urgent necessity for the detention, we will change our attitude that the government violated its promise over the moratorium. However, now we cannot hear such argument,” head of TI Eka Gigauri states. The NGOs also stress that not permitting a convict to speak with his lawyers is a negative fact.