TBILISI, DFWatch — Another former prime minister in Georgia was Tuesday called in for questioning. This time, Nika Gilauri spent five hours with the investigative service of the finance ministry, answering them about the sale of a park area in Tbilisi.
The head of the investigative service’s press office says Gilauri was questioned about the so-called Rike case, but after leaving the ministry’s office Gilauri told journalists that he wasn’t questioned, just had a conversation.
Rike is a park in downtown Tbilisi, in the old historic part of town. It is thought to be a profitable location for business. In 2006, the Georgian government sold 43 350 m2 of land at Rike to New Rike Ltd for USD 4 million, which was very cheap compared to the market price of land.
A company was set up just few before purchasing the land. The company has changed heads several times.
In 2008, the government bought the land back from New Rike LTD for USD 10.2 million, resulting in USD 6 million of loss. The company didn’t fulfill any of the obligations envisaged in the contract with the state.
There is a suspicion that officials and businessmen close to them did the deal in order to tap a few millions from the state.
The investigative service of the finance ministry has started investigating the case, and has questioned several persons already.
Former Prime Minister Nika Gilauri was also questioned. He was finance minister when the land plot at Rike was sold. However, after five hours of questioning he told journalists that it wasn’t a questioning, but they just wanted information regarding Rike.
“But I don’t know anything about this topic,” he said.
Former government officials claim that Bidzina Ivanishvili, the current Prime Minister, is also implicated in this case.
At Tuesday’s press conference with local and international media, the PM said that when there was planned construction work at Rike, he had good relations with the previous government and tried to assure Mikheil Saakashvili of the importance of those projects.
“I couldn’t make this man understand anything. I financed a tender, which was conducted regarding Rike. I wanted to teach Saakashvili that architecture has a big role in construction. This was a precedent and I forced him to take a long pause. I invited interesting architect groups. Danish architects presented the most interesting project. It wouldn’t have destroyed the image of the old city and the square wouldn’t have been reloaded, but they didn’t use this project,” he said.
Two employees of Tbilisi City Hall were also questioned on Tuesday.