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SSS Scandal of Secret Recordings and Compromising Materials Against Clergy

By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Wednesday, September 22
On September 13, the already tense situation in Georgia was further aggravated by a new large-scale scandal. Local media outlets received a link leading to a huge archive of secret materials collected by the surveillance of the Georgian Security Service - thousands of files.

So far, journalists have looked through only a small part of the materials. The secret materials leaked from one of the subdivisions of the State Security Service, which monitors the Church. In this context, journalists and foreign diplomats also came under their surveillance.

The government is busy finding out who made this information public and blames the opposition for this, while the opposition accuses the government of establishing a total surveillance system.

The situation will be reminiscent of Oscar Wild's ‘Portrait of Dorian Gray.’ We have a government whose representatives are talking about upholding the highest democratic standards and announcing its membership in the European Union soon, while at the same time the leaked files of the SSS show the ugly face of an oligarchic regime behind the democratic facade that listens and watches everyone. The materials of only one subdivision for 2015-2021 became known to the public.

The organization ‘Waste Detector’ informed the public that more than 800 million GEL has been spent on SSS since 2015. From 2015 to 2019, the position of the head of the SSS was held by the current Minister of Internal Affairs, Vakhtang Gomelauri, who was still in office in 2012.

The current head of SUS Grigol Liluashvili will visit the agency in 2019. He is in the lead and he is also from Ivanishvili's entourage. He was employed by Ivanishvili's companies before being appointed to a public position.

The disclosure of SSS secret documents has, to put it mildly, put the government in a difficult and uncomfortable position. The statements that we are dealing with thousands of file falsifications cannot be taken seriously. Especially since the journalists participating in the wiretapped conversations confirm their authenticity.

In addition to the allegations of falsification, the authorities immediately accused the "National Movement" of distributing these materials. "They recorded it themselves, edited it themselves. They confirm it themselves," Mamuka Mdinaradze, one of the leaders of the Georgian Dream, responded. According to him, “the UNM is trying to confront the state and the church in this way with this is an unsuccessful attempt.”

However, a new addressee of the accusation soon appeared in the form of the team of former Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia. According to the current Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili, the investigation is considering the possible involvement of former Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia or former Deputy Head of the SSS Alexander Khojevanishvili. According to the Minister of Culture Tea Tsulukiani, there was a betrayal within the political family of the Georgian Dream.

Gakharia's team, in turn, demands the establishment of a parliamentary commission of inquiry and the involvement of the Public Defender in the process.

The main theme in the thousands of files leaked from SSS is the church and details of the public and private lives of the clergy. The media declined to cover these details of the scandalous documents, but also noted that these details could also blackmail surveillance facilities. The official statement of the Patriarchate regarding the scandalous documents has not been released yet.

These thousands of files contain documents related to the staff of diplomatic missions accredited in Georgia. There is nothing special in the content of the conversations, but the fact that foreign diplomats are listened to in Georgia is important. This gives the scandal a ‘new dimension’.

If the Georgian Dream is looking for a source and disseminator of information from the SSS and blames the opposition for it, the opposition is outraged by the fact of total covert wiretapping and claims that this is a “well-proven method of authoritarian regimes.”

The opposition promises that if it comes to power, it will put an end to this evil and the security structures will be reorganized.

Politicians and commentators are still discussing the incident in the context of the upcoming elections. According to experts, the release of these materials will not have the same effect on the public as the footage released from prison in 2012.

Some even said that they did not hear anything new from the public because they already knew that "everyone is being watched and listened to."

Deputy Public Defender Gia Burjanadze notes that no agency in the country will properly investigate the fact of illegal wiretapping, the parliament can not control anything "under this type of total control, the elections in the country will be neither real nor anything else."

New scandalous materials are expected to be heard before the upcoming elections. Georgian Dream blames the opposition for this, while the opposition believes that it is planning to cover up the scandal by spreading compromising materials of public figures.

The leaked materials from SSS have dealt a severe blow to the ruling party's election campaign, but in the wake of the scandal, Georgian Dream leaders say they will win the election convincingly, there will be no elections until 2024.

According to Irakli Gharibashvili, after the elections, everyone who participates in the ‘conspiracy’ against the state and the church will be ‘given a proper answer’. The organizer of any provocation is threatened with ‘zero tolerance’. The opposition considers the victory in the elections and the appointment of early parliamentary elections inevitable.