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Rustavi 2 owner vows talks with TV founders about the channel’s shares

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, July 26
Businessman Kibar Khalvashi, who was given 100 percent of shares of Rustavi 2 TV on July 18, says that he will continue talks with the founders of the channel regarding the ownership issue, as the founders say that the channel was illegally seized from them in 2004 by the United National Movement (UNM) government, the year Khalvashi says he bought the media outlet.

Khalvashi, who filed a lawsuit to return the shares in 2017, argued that the channel was illegally seized from him in 2006 by the UNM, and won trials both in Georgia and at the European Court of Human Rights.

In 2015, Khalvashi vowed to return at least 40 percent of shares to David Dvali and Jarji Akimidze, who founded the channel back in 1994 together with already deceased businessman and politician Erosi Kitsmarishvili.

Khalvashi also promised to appoint Dvali as director-general of the channel after winning the case, which he did not keep, giving the post to his lawyer Paata Salia.

Khalvashi says that he had communication with Dvali and Akimidze about two years ago and they had a “specific agreement,” which he refused to share with the media.

“I will speak about the agreement when I continue talks with Akimidze and Dvali,” Khalvashi said, adding that he will make a “fair decision,” and fulfill his promise.

Khalvashi made the statements on Wednesday when he came to the Tbilisi Forensic Bureau to leave the sample of his signature, as former Defence Minister Irakli Okruashvili says that Khalvashi represented him in the Rustavi 2 purchase deal in 2004 and was a nominal figure.

Okruashvili says that he, who served as prosecutor-general that time, bought the channel with seven million USD, stating that he has a document signed by Khalvashi in 2010 in which the businessman admits that Okruashvili is the real owner of the channel.

Khalvashi left the sample of the signature to prove that the “document mentioned by Okruashvili is fake.”

He called “fool and dishonest” to Okruashvili, once his closest ally, while in the bureau.

Okruashvili is sure that he will “regain the shares” and promises to give 80 percent of the shares to 10 journalists of Rustavi 2.

Georgian courts returned shares to Khalvashi in 2017. However, the channel appealed the verdict to the European Court.

The court said that the verdict of the Georgian courts would not be enforced until it discussed the issue and made a decision.

On July 18, 2019, the European Court of Human Rights upheld the verdict of the Georgian courts and allowed the return of shares to Khalvashi.

Rustavi 2 leadership and journalists said that the decision was “shocking.”

They believe Khalvashi will try to change the editorial policy of one of the most influential, opposition-minded media outlet.

Since its creation, Rustavi 2 has changed owners more than 20 times.