The presidential residence in Avlabari, Tbilisi. (DF Watch.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–The government in Georgia has discovered that the palace Mikheil Saakashvili used as official residence for many years had a gas pipe installed which made it able to consume gas illegally without a counter.

The glass domed presidential residence towers on a cliff over Tbilisi and has been symbolic for Saakashvili’s lavish lifestyle. His predecessor, current President Giorgi Margvelashvili, decided to not use this or any other of the official residences.

Deputy Energy Minister Ilia Eloshvili presented the new finding at a briefing Friday at Kaztransgaz, the company which supplies gas to the capital. He spoke about the results of a revision in Tbilisi, which revealed the illegal use of natural gas at the Avlabari residence.

Eloshvili said that they checked the palace in connection with a planned revision and discovered a pipe which supplies the complex with gas without a counter attached. He says he assumes that it has been in use since the residence was opened.

According to the deputy minister, the president’s administration spent 5000-6000 lari (USD 2800-3000) on gas per month. The ministry prepared an administrative protocol and will soon define the size of the fine which must be paid by the State Social Security Service, he said.

Eloshvili said there is a suspicion that different private organizations and luxurious villas around Tbilisi are also using natural gas illegally and soon all these properties will be checked in the same way.

Andro Barnovi, the former head of the president’s administration during Saakashvili, denied that there is an illegal gas pipe in the residence and told Interpressews that it is nonsense to make such a claim.