lado Vardzelashvili detained

Lado Vardzelashvili, former sports minister. (Police photo.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–The former minister of sport and youth affairs, a close ally of president Saakashvili, has been detained by Tbilisi police, along with two of his friends, after the accidental killing of another friend who was also a former ministry employee.

The accident happened during a party former Sports Minister Vladimer (Lado) Vardzelashvili, 33, was hosting in his apartment. His friends acknowledged that there was an unexpected shot from a pistol as Vardzelashvili was showing his weapons collection to his friends, after they had left their spouses in another room.

In a statement released by the Ministry of Interior on its website, Vardzelashvili recounts the incident. He says that while examining the weapons collection, he handed the TT pistol, an old-fashioned pistol for Red Army officers now out of service, to his friend Zviad Kavtaradze who accidentally fired a shot that hit their friend Devi Siradze, 45, in the chest. Siradze died after a few minutes, and before he arrived at the hospital. Some account say before the the ambulance arrived.

Witnesses say that friends from the sports ministry were gathered at the flat of Lado Vardzelashvili to celebrate the arrival of another ministry employee, who had come from Greece.

For Vardzelashvili things went wrong when the police found out that the pistol was not registered in his name. Now he might face another charge for illegally keeping a weapon, though it is not clear yet exactly what charges the three detainees will face.

Vardzelashvili claims that the TT pistol was presented to him by his relative and he had planned to register it.

Vardzelashvili’s lawyer Gogita Gabaidze told journalists after his client’s detention that according to his information the gun belonged to Vakhtang Bichashvili, who is a police employee and who was the one who gave the gun to former minister as a gift. The lawyer assumes that Bichashvili may be convicted for mishandling a gun.

The lawyer also explains that Vardzelashvili may be charged for illegally keeping the gun.

Lado Vardzelashvili was member of Saakashvili’s inner circle of young Georgian politicians who were given high-level government posts after the Rose Revolution in 2003. Allegedly Vardzelashvili’s wife, Irina Onashvili, a former Miss Georgia, was present during the incident too.