TBILISI, DFWatch – A court in Tbilisi is to decide whether President Saakashvili’s strongest challenger is a criminal.

It’s the Chamber of Control (CoC) that is taking Bidzina Ivanishvili to court. The body, which was given tough new powers last December, accuses the businessman of having illegally funnelled parts of his six billion dollar fortune into a political movement founded by himself.

Tbilisi City Court today started hearing the case. If Ivanishvili is found guilty, he may be have to pay 63 million lari, or about USD 38.7 million.

CoC yesterday released a statement saying that its financial monitoring service has observed the actions of the companies Burji, Elita Burji and Global Consulting Group, which are owned by Ivanishvili.

The body was given powers to monitor the financial operations of political parties, companies, organizations and other bodies after parliament completely amended the election legislation at the end of December 2011, two months after the billionaire had entered Georgian politics.

The new law imposes new strict rules for the financing of individuals and legal persons involved in politics. If violations are found, the CoC may issue fines five times the amount which was illegally transferred for political purposes.

Now, the CoC claims to have proof that Ivanishvili’s companies were used illegally for political ends.

“This is about distributing thousands of satellite receivers to voters and instances of preferential services of 239 units of vehicles of different classes.”

The chamber states that the companies were used in violation of the Law on Political Unions of Citizens.

“On the grounds of material included in the case, Bidzina Ivanishvilil, having declared political and election goals, is defined as a law offender.”

During a break in the court hearing, lawyers working for Ivanishvili told journalists that they accuse the judge of being subjective and demand that he is replaced.

Interpressnews writes that the lawyers asked for mediation, but the judge overruled all their pleas, including pleas to postpone the case, suspend it and transfer it to the constitutional court, a plea to replace the judge and to have the evidence presented.

The judge also denied the defense to present witnesses which lawyers say are important.

One of Ivanishvili’s lawyers, Shalva Tadumadze, says that if the businessman is convicted he will be charged five times more than the 12.6 million lari which was allegedly transferred for political purposes.

The businessman’s lawyers consider the CoC’s actions an attempt to ‘punish’ Ivanishvili for a demonstration he organized in Tbilisi on May 27.

Kbilashvili, another of Ivanishvili’s lawyers, says the accusations are untrue, but even if they were true, responsibility should rest on those companies and subjects that used the services. He says it’s unclear why Ivanishvili is accused for these actions.