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Prosecutor’s Office Says Recordings in Omega Case are Edited

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, October 8
The Georgian Chief Prosecutor’s Office stated last week that the audio recordings in the high-profile Omega case, in which the business corporation representatives speak about elite corruption, are edited.

The office claims that the recordings are edited so much that they will become useless for the investigation, as it is impossible to identify the individuals speaking in the audio footage.

The statement of the Georgian Chief Prosecutor’s Office came shortly after the “confession” of former Sport minister and a negotiator in the Omega Case Levan Kipiani that the founder of the Omega Group business corporation Zaza Okuashvili and he staged the audio recordings to deliberately discredit the government, in order the corporation to avoid its financial obligations.

The opposition believes that Kipiani’s and the Chief Prosecutor’s statements are controversial, cause if Kipiani and Okuashvili staged the recordings there would be no need to edit them.

The United National Movement and the European Georgia opposition “are sure” that the Georgian Dream government was involved in illegalities and now they are trying to cheat people and are making an influence on Kipiani to say what is in the government interests.

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili also believes that Kipiani, who served as a minister in 2012-2015 under the Georgian Dream leadership, has been sacrificed.

"Sacrificing an old companion will not bring any good. This shows your standards. Today, I see how our companion, Levan Kipiani, has been abandoned; he stood with us, unlike the people that I see today in the political elite. Levan had been fighting together with us. Levan was my colleague when we were members of the Cabinet of Ministers. It is unacceptable to sacrifice an old companion. Everyone should have the right and hope that he/she will not be abandoned by companions,” Margvelashvili said.

Kipiani said on October 3 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 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 naïve, 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.

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 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 through “staging shows.”