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Ex-Mayor of Tbilisi denies misspending of state funds

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, January 6
Ex-Mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava has addressed the Court of Appeals and denied the state money misspending charges of which he is accused, saying he legitimately employed the activists of the United National Movement (UNM) in a public service, which did not constitute an offence.

Ugulava, one of the key figures of the current UNM opposition - the party which ran Georgia in 2003-2012 - addressed the Court of Appeals on January 4 after the Tbilisi City Court found him guilty of misspending more than 5 million GEL through employing over 700 UNM activities in a public service.

The investigation, carried out under the current Georgian Dream leadership, which took office in 2012, said the Tbilisi Mayor’s Office misspent 5.24 million GEL by creating hundreds of fictitious jobs in a municipal service.

The investigation said that in 2009 then-head of the Tbilisi municipality’s waste management service, Tariel Khizaneishvili, established the TbilService Group, a state-owned entity providing waste management and other services under the Tbilisi municipality’s government in order to create the Group’s fake public relations department.

Investigators also said that then-Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava approved TbilService Group’s staff and salary in August 2010.

“If I had planned to separate the administrative body and the ruling [UNM] party from each other, I would somehow manage to do it, but I did not have this goal. I am sorry that I did not have that goal. If employees of state service work as activists of any party, it is bad, but it is in no way misappropriation or embezzlement,” said Ugulava.

According to him, he did not have any personal motive in the case.

“I did not have any personal motive or profit, and I believe that the pay given to the employees of the TbilService Group was not a waste of money,” Ugulava added.

“The fact that party activists were employed in the TbilService Group is not a criminal problem, it can be a political problem,” Ugulava’s lawyer Beka Basilaia told the media.

Members of the ruling team believe creating fake jobs for hundreds of party activities does indeed constitute misspending of state money, and was proved by the earlier verdict of the Tbilisi City Court.