TBILISI, DFWatch – Saakashvili’s main competitor Bidzina Ivanisvhili yesterday gave 80 million lari to the state. This is about USD 48 million. He says the government has denied him of all other ways to help the disaster struck population, and therefore he decided to pay the fine he was issued by a court a few weeks ago.
Bidzina Ivanishvili has recently been fined several times in cases brought to court by the State Audit Service. The audit service’s argument is that he has used his companies for political goals. The fine amounted about USD 45 million, after the appeals court reduced it to half. Lawyers working for Ivanishvili claim the fine is illegal.
After the appeal was decided, the businessman warned authorities that he was not going to pay the fine, and the Enforcement Bureau took part of his property and put it up for auction, but it wasn’t sold.
July 19, a hailstorm hit Georgia and seriously affected about 40 villages. The opposition Georgian Dream coalition several times offered the government to help with the rescue and clean up work, but didn’t know a legal way to do this. The government didn’t respond.
So, in the first days of the storm, Ivanishvili transferred 10 million lari to the bank account indicated by Tbilisi City Court to pay the fine to, promising that he would transfer more later. Yesterday, it was announced that he had transferred the remaining 80 million lari to the state.
According to the statement, Georgian Dream plans to conduct monitoring on how this money is spent.
In a video appeal published yesterday on his official Facebook page, Bidzina Ivanishvili says that Georgian Dream will control the process to assist the population so that the emergency assistence reaches everybody, regardless of political affiliation. If the money he transferred is not enough, he will try to find another legal way to make the government pay the appropriate amount to compensate the loss.
Georgian Dream accuses the government of having recklessly spent money from two state reserve funds meant to only be used in emergencies. One is controlled by the government and the other by the president, each containing 50 million lari. The opposition bloc says the government recently had to move money around in the state budget to pay for the clean up work, instead of using the reserve funds.
Previous years, investigative reports have found that the reserve funds were used to finance lavish outdoors concerts and Georgia’s participation in the Eurovision song contest. In 2007, only one percent of the funds were actually spent on helping people cope with natural disasters, while 31 percent was spent on various entertainment events.
A group of majoritarian candidates in affected regions will monitor how the money Ivanishvili gave to the state will be spent. Maia Panjikidze, spokersperson for Georgian Dream coalition said today at a briefing.
She added that this group is also instructed to calculate the loss affected by the hail storm.