Carl Hartzell, Ambassador of the European Union to Georgia, has stated that he is looking forward to an effective investigation into the case related to the “Omega Group,” in which the business speaks about the government pressure.
Foreign ambassadors Look for Investigations into Omega Case
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, October 15
“We are closely following the case of Omega. We hope that an independent investigation will be conducted and the causes behind the ongoing processes will become clear,” Hartzell said.
French Ambassador to Georgia Pascal Meunier also revealed the same expectations and said that it is important for Georgia to preserve its “positive image”, of the country which managed to defeat corruption.
The Georgian Chief Prosecutor’s Office stated a week ago that the audio recordings in the high-profile Omega case, in which the business corporation representatives speak about elite corruption were 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 Sports 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 for the corporation to avoid its financial obligations.
The opposition believes that Kipiani’s and the Chief Prosecutor’s statements are controversial because if Kipiani and Okuashvili staged the recordings there would be no need to edit them.
Kipiani said in response that Okruashvili had to re-edit the recordings as he [Kipaini] “was not good at playing his role,” and he also refused to mention certain surnames in the recordings.
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 influencing Kipiani to say what is government interests.
On October 3 Kipiani said that he and the head of the Omega Group business corporation Zaza Okruashvili 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 Okruashvili 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 Okruashvili was unable to pay Kipiani’s salary over the course of three years.
He also said that Okruashvili promised him 10 percent of share in his cigarette company.
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.
Okruashvili 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 it owes more than 84 million GEL to the Bank of Georgia.