Georgian Companies vs. Batumi Port
17 April, 2014
Georgian Companies  vs. Batumi Port
The Kazakh-owned Batumi Black Sea Port of Georgia is accused of discriminating against the Georgian logistic companies, and of corruption deals. The Georgian freight forwarding company Trans-System accuses Talgat Baitaziev, CEO of the Kazak-owned Batumi Industrial Holding which owns Batumi Port, of discrimination. As Dimitry Gabunia, lawyer of Trans-system, reported on 15 April to the media, Trans-System dismisses its contract with the port and demands more than one million USD as compensation. The afflicted company plans to file a lawsuit
at the Batumi city court as well as with the General Prosecutors’ Office of Georgia.
Another logistic company, the international container terminal BICT, has already filed a lawsuit against Batumi Port at the London arbitrage court. This claim is about discrimination of the terminal’s activity from the port through illegal means and contract breakage.
According to Gabunia, Trans-System has been operating in Batumi Port since 2010 and its business was flourishing until Baitaziev came into office in 2013 and started discriminating against Georgian companies. To this end, he founded four companies in 2013 which are owned by his relatives and close friends. While these companies have no background or experience in the cargo shipping businesses, they win all tenders held in the port.
According to Gela Laitadze, Director General of Trans-System, the dry cargo turnover averaged just a million ton per year before his company entered Batumi port whereas after Trans-System started operation the figure exceeded 1.5 million, as the 3-year statistic demonstrates. “Starting from the first quarter of 2013, Baitaziev cracked down on us: he created several new companies, including the GPMS Group, our direct competitor. Although this company had only a few months experience, it got a contract with the port according to which the company enjoys a [privileged] 20% discount on basic port tariffs while the company assumes no obligation in exchange.”
Gabunia also sent letters to the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, the Embassy of Kazakhstan and the Kazakh national KazTransOil Company that owns the port, to investigate the case and carry out relevant measures.
Gabunia points out the suspicious background of Baitaziev who, as the Kazakh media reported repeatedly, was allegedly involved in organizing criminal groups in his country Kazakhstan. Therefore, he calls on the Georgian law-enforcing bodies to take an interest in the personality of Baitaziev who manages one of Georgia’s key strategic assets of Georgia.
“This poses risks not just to certain companies but to the development of the entire Batumi port which, naturally, will have a negative impact on the economy of the country. He deliberately discriminates Trans-System and certain corruption deals are also taking place,” Gabunia stated.
As a matter of fact, according to the Kazakh media outlet Taszhargan.info, Talgat Baitaziev was one of the central figures in an oil scandal in Kazakhstan. The scandal began when the head of one of the country’s regions was declared wanted on charges of forming a criminal group of 35 people, which caused damage to the state in the amount of 71 billion tenge [Kazakh currency]. According to Taszhargan.info, the criminal group created firms for money laundering and the traces of these activities lead to Baitaziev. The Prosecutor’s Office of Kazakhstan has also found evidence of the illegal sale of oil by Petroline Company, which was linked to this group. The investigation found that across the country a total of 33 000 tons remained unaccounted for and 168 000 tons have been exported without a formal count.

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