TBILISI, DFWatch–Former member of parliament and chairman of the Olympic Committee Gia Natsvlishvili is charged with appropriation of 4 052 108 lari (USD 2.5 million) of public money. He denies guilt.

The investigative service of the Ministry of Finance said Saturday that Zaza Kapanadze, the founder of Artesi Ltd and Avante Hospital Management Group, was also charged, along with Natsvlishvili, for money laundering and appropriation of public money.

Investigators say Artesi Ltd was refurbishing several properties in Tbilisi from 2009 to 2012 using state money on orders of Foundation for City Rehabilitation and Development, which is owned by the city of Tbilisi.

Founder of Artesi, Zaza Kapanadze, together with Gia Natsvlishvili, who is ‘unofficial founder’ of the same company, artificially increased the costs of the work defined in the contract. They were assisted by Sergo Kavtaradze, who chaired the fund. The amount of increased costs and appropriated money from the fund is about USD 2.5 million.

Zaza Kapanadze is not in Georgia and was charged in absentia. Gia Natsvlishvili will get his pretrial punishment within 48 hours, but he is not yet detained.

Mamuka Chabashvili, his lawyer, says Natsvlishvili denies guilt and thinks the charges are absurd, because he is not the founder of Artesi Ltd and worked there only as a consultant and coordinated the construction work.

“The investigation claims that he with other persons artificially increased the prices for the company’s services and this way appropriated money. This is absurd, and we will prove this in court,” he said, adding that the investigation also claims there was money laundering, but they didn’t present evidence to back this up.

The lawyer said that Natsvlishvili was president of the Olympic Committee along with his working at Artesi Ltd, but this is not a violation of law.

According to the lawyer, his client has been questioned several times regarding the case.