TBILISI, DFWatch – The Appeals Court in Tbilisi rejected an appeal by the leader of the opposition Georgian Dream coalition and a former AC Milan player. This means that the decision by Tbilisi City Court to fine them stands.
Bidzina Ivanishvili was fined USD 12.3 million on August 11, while the next day, August 10, Kakhi Kaladze was fined USD 10.3 million. Both were fined for withdrawing large amounts of cash from their own bank accounts without specifying the reason. The State Audit Office to considers them law offenders, and as in all previous cases, the judge agreed. Hence, Kakhi Kaladze’s property was also seized.
The State Audit Office claims that the two used the withdrawn money to funnel money through other people to their opposition party, Georgian Dream, thereby circumventing a maximum limit on how much one person can donate to a political party.
Bidzina Ivanishvhili’s hearing in the Appeals Court on Tuesday lasted for two hours. Kaladze’s hearing lasted more than an hour. In both cases, the appeals court upheld the city court’s decision.
The former football player’s property will also be seized, specifically his companies Max Bet and Kala Capital, as well as residential buildings and cars.
Kaladze’s lawyer Shalva Tadumadze says his client has to pay the fine within seven days. If he doesn’t pay, the enforcement process will start. The lawyer informs that they will take the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Lawyers working for Ivanishvili consider today’s court decision illegal and say that neither him nor Kaladze will pay the fine. But two days ago, Paya Panjikidze, spokesperson for Georgian Dream, said that Ivanishvili and Kaladze are ready to transfer money to the state in order to help people affected by the hailstorm on July 19. They don’t have any other way of doing that than by paying the fine, because all other actions would be considered bribery of voters. Panjikidze said that even though they think the fines are illegal, they are both ready to pay them.
Lawyers for Georgian Young Lawyers Association consider the fines illegal, because Georgian legislation doesn’t prohibit the withdrawal of money from one’s own accounts, nor does it make it obligatory to tell authorities the purpose of withdrawing cash from one’s bank accounts.
Ivanishvili has already paid 80 million lari in fines, which he also considered illegal, but decided to pay nonetheless, in order to help victims of a storm last month.