TBILISI, DFWatch–After one day in freedom, Tbilisi’s former mayor was Friday sentenced to four and a half years in jail.
Although the city court in Tbilisi sentenced Gigi Ugulava to nine years, the sentence was reduced to four years and six months in compliance with an amnesty law passed in 2012.
The hearing was interrupted by several breaks. Ugulava was found not guilty of some of the charges that included the legalization of illegal income, appropriation and embezzlement of state money.
The court ruled that Ugulava was not guilty in connection with a “scheme of appropriation” of Imedi TV and the sale of Rike Park, a lucrative land plot in Old Tbilisi next to the river Mtkvari. He was charged along with former Defense Minister Davit Kezerashvili. Both were found not guilty.
When it comes to the Imedi case, the prosecution said that in 2008, the majority of shares in the TV company belonged to Joseph Kay, who had spent about USD 10 million on running the television station by the time. On behalf of the government, Kezerashvili met Kay and threatened him, forcing him to give away Imedi TV. In return, Ugulava would reimburse the USD 10 million he had spent.
The prosecution argued that on the orders of Ugulava, Kay gave away his shares to Kezerashvili, particularly to a company owned by him. The next step was a negotiation with Akhali Rike Ltd. Ugulava required that the company write in documents that they had purchased the Rike land plot in 2006 for USD 7 million, but then the government bought it back for USD 17 million. USD 10 million was meant to pay Joseph Key.
In this part of the charges both Ugulava and Kezerashvili were found not guilty.
Another part of the charges concerned using state money to finance the political activity of the National Movement. Prosecutors claimed that in December, 2009, a fake department was set up at Tbilservis Group, signing contracts with 764 activists, but none of them had actual work at Tbilservis group. Instead, they were campaigning for UNM, which paid them more than four million laris in salary.
Ugulava was found guilty in this case.
The former mayor has been in detention since July 2014. He was released yesterday after the Constitutional Court ruled his pre-trial detention unconstitutional.