TBILISI, DFWatch – National Bureau of Enforcement has seized Bidzina Ivanishvili’s 100 percent share in Cartu Group and Cartu Bank and a 21.7 percent share he has in Progress Bank because of failure to pay a USD 45 million fine.
The businessman claims that he only has assets at Progress Bank and that the National Bank misled the Bureau of Enforcement.
A statement by the Enforcement Bureau says their research on assets registered in Bidzina Ivanishvili’s name shows that Cartu Group holds a 100 percent shares of Cartu Bank; and Ivanishvili holds a 100 percent share of Cartu Group and 21.7 percent of Progress Bank. Accordingly, Bidzina Ivanishvili represents the 100 percent holder of Bank Cartu and beneficiary owner of Progress Bank’s 21.7 percent.
“According to the information provided by the National Bank of Georgia, the Law of Georgia on ‘Activities of Commercial Banks’ states that in order to acquire a share of a commercial bank, a person is obliged to inform the National Bank of Georgia in a manner prescribed by law. Violation of this rule causes the contract on transfer of shares to be annulled. As no declaration has been submitted to the National Bank of Georgia by the J.S.C. “Cartu Bank” regarding the change of the beneficiary owner, Bidzina Ivanishvili still remains beneficiary owner of 100% of shares of JSC “Cartu Bank,” the statement says.
Archil Kbilashvili, one of Ivanishivli’s lawyers, says that the businessman really had shares in Progress Bank, so seizing his shares there is a normal and correct process from a legal viewpoint. But he says Ivanishvili has no shares in Cartu Bank. 100 percent of the bank belongs to Cartu Group, a joint stock company owned by several foreign companies. Therefore, within Georgian jurisdiction, Ivanishvili never was the owner of Cartu Group.
Another of Ivanishvili’s lawyers, Shalva Tadumadze, says the National Bank misled the Enforcement Bureau.
He explained that the Law on Activities of Commercial Banks doesn’t apply to Ivanishvili, because he was the beneficiary owner of Cartu Bank and not a buyer of shares. The regulation of this law applies to a person who buys shares.
“It would be good if they find out at the National Bank what shares in a bank are and what a beneficiary owner is. What the National Bank did today is nonsense and contains the signs of a crime, because they misled the enforcement bureau and implement enforcement on a third person. There is a significant difference between a purchaser of shares and a beneficiary owners. They should at least know this at the National Bank. Bidzina Ivanishvili never has been an owner of shares, and as for beneficiary owner, he was that by December 31, 2011.”
He states that after Bidzina Ivanishvili decided to enter politics, he transferred ownership rights to his son. Accordingly, beneficiary owner in 2012 is Uta Ivanishvili and a commercial bank annually presents a report about its ownership to the National Bank. So, there was no violation, Tadumadze explains.
“When the National Bank makes such a statement, it’s desirable to be competent. This is not a mistake, but a political decision. They made it on purpose, to make sure that Ivanishvili doesn’t have appropriate property to pay the 75 million lari fine. They decided to take revenge by rules which are not defined by law.”
Tina Khidasheli, one of the leaders of the Georgian Dream coalition, says that the amount of property which is seized by the Enforcement Bureau significantly exceeds the amount of the outstanding fine.
The government has not yet commented. But Monday evening, teh president said the government will have a zero tolerance policy towards law offenders, and in the same passing he said that having much money isn’t a privilege and it was clear he meant his main competitor Bidzina Ivanishvili.
In light of the fact that Ivanishvili’s lawyers consider the fine and its surrounding process illegal, Ramaz Sakvarelidze, political commentator and Professor at Tbilisi State University, says the government has miscalculated its steps.
He says that when people start questioning the fairness of the process, it creates sympathy for Ivanishvili among the population.
“I think now there is a trying out of different alternative courses and no plan. Their steps do not give the impression of having been planned. But maybe they work on several alternatives,” he says adding that it will eventually become which course the government will choose.