Levan Kipiani, who had served as the negotiator of the Omega Group business corporation with the government in 2015-2018, stated after his questioning on Wednesday that the audio footages about the government pressure on business released by the Rustavi 2 channel are staged.
Omega Negotiator, ex-Sport Minister Says Footages Against Gov’t are Staged
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, October 5
Kipiani says that he and the head of the Omega Group business corporation Zaza Okuashvili recorded several audios in summer 2018 to persuade Omega’s foreign partners as if the business was being suppressed by the Georgian Dream government.
Kipiani claims that the idea belonged to Okuashvili and aimed to achieve the postponement of the payment of debts his corporation had to the foreign partners.
Kipiani who served as the minister of sport under the Georgian Dream leadership in 2012-2015, says that he was promised to fully receive his salary if he accepted the offer, as, due to the financial problems Okuashvili was unable to pay Kipiani’s salary over the course of three years.
“It was naive, but I accepted the offer,” Kipiani said, “and we recorded the footages, which should have been targeted for only the foreign partners of the Omega Group.”
Okuashvili, who is now in the UK, says that he is able to answer all the questions about the case. However, “due to the threat to his life”, he does not intend to return to Georgia.
“I am ready to answer to the questions in the UK,” Okuashvili said and dismissed the existence of any type of financial obligations to the Omega Group foreign partners.
Okuashvili says that Kipiani is being influenced to “tell lies.”
Okuashvili’s wife, lawmaker Nato Chkheidze says that Kipiani is “scared and hopeful” at the same time.
She says that it is unlikely Kipiani to tell the truth.
The United National Movement and the European Georgia opposition say that “it is very obvious” that the Georgian Dream government is trying to cheat people.
Omega, which unites cigarette, car and media companies, says that under the Georgian Dream leadership its cigarette company OGT suffered $100 million in losses as multinational company British American Tobacco violated the laws on competition and tobacco control.
Okuashvili claims that the British-American Tobacco was lobbed by former PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili and other state officials.
The corporation says that they had to take loans to cover their necessary expenses, however, they failed to meet their financial obligations.
Omega Group says that they appealed to the government in 2017 to have their debt restructured, but the government lingered the process which increased the corporation’s financial obligations to millions.
Currently, the Omega Group has more than 50 million GEL debt to the state budget, while its financial obligations to the Bank of Georgia is more than 84 million GEL.
Okuashvili says that the founder of the Georgian Dream ruling party, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili demanded four million GEL from him with the help of the TBC bank leadership, who were suppressed by the Georgian Dream government to violate mandatory procedures and banking rules.
The allegation was dismissed by the bank. However, neither Kipiani nor the bank did not refuse that the money was really withdrawn.
The Georgian Dream leadership says that Okuashvili, “who returned his business grabbed by the United National Movement government only under their governance,” is trying to avoid financial obligations by “staging shows.”