TBILISI, DFWatch – The cash which authorities in Georgia took into custody in an armed police raid last October has been returned to businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili’s bank.
According to a statement from Tbilisi Prosecutor’s Office dated Tuesday, the cash apprehended on October 18, 2011, has been transferred to Cartu Bank’s account in accordance with the law, in the form of a non-cash payment.
In the raid, police took two million US dollars and one million Euros worth of Cartu Bank’s cash in a van. The money was an inter-bank transfer between Cartu Bank and Bank of Georgia, a common practice internationally when a bank needs to increase its cash reserve.
The reason for this particular inter-bank transfer was that the government and its supporters had just closed all their accounts in Cartu Bank in a concerted response after Bidzina Ivanishvili October 7, 2011, published an open letter saying he would go into politics. The many closed accounts made the bank face cash problems, and a cash reinforcement from Bank of Georgia was necessary, according to Cartu Bank president Nodar Javakhishvili. The banks were given the right to carry out such transfers by a Georgian National Bank decision.
The government has said the money was taken because it was part of a money laundering operation. Experts have described this explanation as absurd, because in this case they should also have questioned Bank of Georgia, the other party in the transfer.
In Tuesday’s statement, the prosecutor’s office says that the money was transferred back to Cartu through a non-cash payment process, and such transfers excludes the danger of illicit income legalization.
The investigation on this case is still in ongoing on the basis of article 194 of the Georgian Criminal Law, which deals with large quantities of money laundering.
The Cartu Bank president confirms that the confiscated money was returned to the bank on January 10. He says the bank has committed no violation of law and it’s unclear why the investigation is continuing.