TBILISI, DFWatch — Police have detained the uncle of a former interior minister for illegally cutting forest.

Levan Tumanishvili the head of Tao LTD, was Saturday interrogated for violation of the conditions of a license for using the forest, after trees were illegally cut and fake documents were prepared. The investigation is in progress, the investigative service of the Finance Ministry informs.

Tumanishvili is the uncle of Vano Merabishvili, the current secretary general of the National Movement party.

In the previous government, Vano Merabishvili served as interior minister most of the time, then became prime minister the last two months. President Saakashvili used used to call him ‘the spine of the country’.

During this time, there was talk that Levan Tumanishvili was illegally cutting forests but no law enforcement bodies reacted because of Vano Merabishvili’s intervention. Some though brought a lawsuit against him in court. The court only fined him with about USD 25, while others who cut trees illegally were sentenced to several years in jail.

The current charges are that he caused USD 90.50 worth of damage to the environment.

The investigative service of the Finance Ministry informs that Tumanishvili instructed employees of his own industry to cut trees in the Samtskhe Javakheti region. They took the wooden material to his personal processing plant.

The investigation has revealed that Tumanishvili systematically increased his revenue expenditure through fake documents to avoid having to pay fees to the state.

UNM members have so far avoided commenting on the detention of Vano Merabishvili’s uncle.

Bidzina Giorgobiani, former chair of the forest department of Georgia, a few years ago left for Germany, saying that government harassed him. He said Levan Tumanishvili’s detention is logical.

He remarked that the detainee was in charge of illegal forest cutting in the Adigeni and Borjomi regions, in south Georgia. The wood was exported to Armenia for the purpose of selling it there.

“It was done by a corrupt scheme, which started back in the 90s,” he said.

Bidzina Giorgobiani recalls that in 2005, Levan Tumanishvili came to him and presented himself as a relative of Vano Merabisvhili. He asked to give certain limit for the forests.

“I asked him to apply officially according to the rules and if possible I would grant a limit. But it turned out that it wasn’t possible to grant this limit. I refused. Afterward, I received information that he started purchasing limits from others.”

Giorgobiani says that a large amount of wood was brought to Armenia through corrupt deals with the customs service.

“Tao Ltd conducted illegal forest cutting. It was obvious in Adigeni and Borjomi forest industry. This person was in charge of the whole process, that’s why his detention is logical,” he added.