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Georgia comes down hard on companies helping opposition

by | Jul 7, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch – Tbilisi City Court handed out fines totalling USD 6.7 mill Friday and Saturday. A company was found guilty of lending 45 cars to the opposition for free, and fined USD 5.2 mill, while that company and another was fined USD 1.4 mill for letting them use offices for free.

(Article has been updated regarding the second ruling.)

In the first case, against Burji Ltd for illegal funding of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s opposition movement, Tbilisi City Court ruled in favor of the State Audit Service and fined the company USD 5.2 million.

In local currency, the exact size of the fine is 8 644 640 lari.

The State Audit Service, formerly known as the Chamber of Control, asserted in court that Burji Ltd had bought 45 cars and provided services for free for political parties in the Georgian Dream coalition.

Merab Barbakadze, lawyer for Burji Ltd, told journalists Saturday that the court didn’t take into consideration their documents and arguments which proved that the Audit Service’s conclusion was unlawful. He said that the company has receipts and agreements which will prove that the parties paid money for the services of this company.

He says another problem is that the size of the fine was incorrectly set. Earlier, the Audit Service had a right to set the fine ten times the amount that was illegally transferred. Then this was reduced to five times the amount.

In this case, the alleged violation is the benefit of using 45 cars, not worth of the cars themselves. But the Audit Service set the fine at ten times the purchase price of the 45 cars, he explains.

The Georgian Dream coalition hired the cars for three days. According to Barbakadze, the purchase price of the 45 cars was 864 000 lari.

Yesterday, the Audit Service seized the bank accounts of Burji Ltd, which means that the company won’t be able to function and pay the fine.

In the second case, the city court Saturday issued a second opposition-related fine to Burji Ltd and Management Service. The size of the fine is USD 1.4 million, or in local currency 2 373 475 lari. They have seven days to pay.

The same story repeated itself in the second court case, with the judge only accepting evidence from, and listening to the arguments of, the Audit Service.

Lawyers plan to appeal both rulings to the Appeals Court.



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