“Seized Business” Campaign In Georgia
13 September, 2012
“Seized Business” Campaign In Georgia

 

“Seized” – this inscription made in big black-and-red letters on different companies’ showcases and windows, as well as houses and private land spots, means that the property sealed in black-and-red is the victim of the state. Dachi Tsaguria, leader of human right activist group, launched a campaign of “Seized Businesses” throughout Georgia to express a protest against the ruling party’s illegal property violation practice exercised for 8 years already since the Rose Revolution. 

“The ‘Seized’ campaign started on September 4, 2012

and is supposed to go ahead during the entire pre-election period and after that to remind the society of illegal activity of the ruling National Movement party and make proper decision at the elections day,” Tsaguria said in the interview to Georgian Journal.

Businessmen who were deprived of their companies and properties through illegal means, so called procedural deals and alleged handing of their property to the state officials as gifts, support the Seized movement. However, supporters of victim businessmen are mainly residing abroad at the moment. Those who still live here prefer to be tightlipped. To spare the silent businessmen from governmental pressure but defend their interests too Tsaguria’s group of activists plans to put black-and-red applications on the seized property of the said people without asking their consent.

The first red inscription was depicted on Albatross branded company at Chavchavadze street 44, Tbilisi formerly owned by Davit Begiashvili, who currently lives in Switzerland and runs the organization Businessmen for Free Business in Georgia. Five ministers, their deputies, judges and other 90 employees of state structure participated in seizure of Begiashvili’s property. Based on the investigation conducted by Begiashvili’s organization, Vera Kobalia, Minister of Economy, Zurab Adeishvili, Miniser of Justice, Vladimer Vardzelashvili, minister of Sport and Youth Affairs, Dimitri Gvindadze, former finance minister and now deputy of the executive director of the state run Partnership Fund, as well as Vano Merabishvili, former interior minister who holds the portfolio of Prime Minister at the moment, all participated in Begiashvili’s property seizure case.

Begiashvili was a founder of holding Vake 5 and Albatross Groups, who ran abroad after his property was taken by the state and he was accused of several heavy crimes. Now wanted Begiashvili appealed to Georgian business in this past August to become active and curb the criminal regime of Georgian government.

Another black-and-red application was placed at Art Group central office, once owned by Kibar Khalvashi, now in exile too. Founded in 1996 the company was an exclusive importer of Procter & Gamble, Gillette, Uni, Dilmah and Sara Lee. In fall of 2007 the company was arrested without explanation by revenue service. Later the company was accused of violation customs rules and a solid penalty was imposed. In December of 2007 warehouses of the said company were burnt and the loss accounted for USD 7 million.

Khalvashi was a buddy of Irakli Okruashvili, the former defense minister, who also had to leave Georgia after founding an oppositionist party. Khalvashi thinks he was a subject of revenge for his friendship with Okruashvili.  Merabishvili, Adeishvili, and Davit Kezerashvii, former head of finance police, are supposed to have a hand in this affair. Khalvashi also was deprived of 100% of shares at TV channel Rustavi 2, and 78% of Mze TV channel. Art Group was auctioned and sold in 2009 presumably to some top official, as its lawyer thinks. Through his three companies Khalvashi actually paid GEL39 million 700 thousand to the state budget as unpaid tax duties.  Khalvashi immigrated to Germany. Both Begiahsvili and Khalvashi raised lawsuits at the international court.

There are about 250 illegally seized companies and the targeted black-and-red list of Tsaguria at the moment. However, human right activists believe there are ten-fold more similar cases across Georgia.

“Some victim businessmen already are behind bars like the owner of the petrol station network Magnate that was apparently seized by Kezerashvili as the investigation shows, who renamed the network as Gulf that is one of the market leaders now. For some reason the Greek-based petrol distribution network company Eko left the market along with Magnate as soon as Gulf emerged. No investor is supposed to come in the country like this where authorities violate property rights, and those who already do operate here will leave as Eko did,” Tsagura said. “Therefore we launched this campaign to protect the most sacred thing that all civilized countries hold dear – property rights, that are so blatantly violated in Georgia through procedural deals concluded in mid-nights at the pre-detention isolators when owners of multi-million properties suddenly appear willing to hand their property completely to the state as a gift. Who will believe this?” Tsaguria asks.

In coming days more shame-logos are to be stapled on Mze and Imedi TV channels [Imedi was seized from the late tycoon Badri Batarkatsishvili], as well as to illegally arrested houses of contributors of Georgian Dream, an oppositionist coalition founded by Georgian tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili.

 

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