TBILISI, DFWatch — Transparency International Georgia demands that the authorities show proof that they had a legal right to secretly tap the phones of two former officials.
The phone conversations in question were used to justify detaining officials in the former government on suspicion of participating in a corruption ring involving Russian energy giant Inter RAO.
TI Georgia says the investigative service of the Finance Ministry and the Prosecutor’s Office must show that they had approval to conduct surveillance of the phone conversations of former government officials, recordings which formed the basis for their detainment.
Investigators at the two bodies conducted phone wiretapping of a former energy minister and former education minister, which implicated them in the corruption plot together with several close friends, which involved accepting a one million dollar bribe, funneled through a shell company, in return for looking the other way with tax evasion in the energy sector amounting to tens of millions of lari. All of them were detained.
The long time Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili also appears in the material published on the basis of the wiretaps.
“We call on the investigative service of the Finance Ministry and other appropriate bodies to confirm that their actions were legal and make an additional explanation for what were the basis for listening to the phone conversations of those people and record them,” the statement by TI Georgia reads.
The organization’s media analysts Mathias Huter and Mamuka Andghuladze a month ago said in a statement that it was necessary to stop the illegal surveillance of telecommunications.
“Using equipment they had installed in wireless communications service providers’ infrastructure, the Ministry of Interior’s Constitutional Security Department (KUD) and the Special Operations Department (SOD) have been able to directly access all communications data, an executive of a major telecommunications service provider told TI Georgia. The monitoring infrastructure still has not been removed and remains in place after the elections, according to the executive, who asked not to be named,” media analysts write in their blog.
They do not exclude that the court gave permission to access their phone conversations, but these document should become public, they argue.
Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) has also protested against illegal eavesdropping. GYLA won a case against the Georgian government in a case which dealt with monitoring of social networks and internet activity.