TBILISI, DFWatch – One of the owners of a cable company that is affiliated with the Georgian opposition was arrested today at Tbilisi international airport. Authorities claim he is involved in money laundering.
The opposition billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili indicated that he believes the arrest is politically motivated.
The cable company, Global TV, is currently the only land-based distribution his Channel 9 has access to. Another cable company suddenly got into legal troubles right after signing a deal with Channel 9 and was ordered by authorities to kill the signal.
The background for Global TV co-owner and US citizen Aleksandr Ronzhes’s arrest is unclear.
Georgia’s Finance Ministry’s investigative service released a statement which says that they are investigating a suspected instance of money laundering, after receiving a tip from the Finance Monitoring Service at Georgia’s National Bank.
The statement says that Aleksandr Ronzhes in October, 2004, purchased real estate in Tbilisi for 180 000 lari. On June 8, 2012, he transferred the property to Lizingi 21 Ltd and withdrew a large amount of cash from his bank account, which is a suspicious operation by Georgian legislation and appropriate international standards.
“As he hasn’t made money declaration during crossing the Georgian border, it is reasonable to question him as s witness.”
At first defense lawyers were denied access to Ronzhes, who was planning to fly first to Turkey and then to the U.S.
Georgian news website media.ge writes that Lizingi 21 is owned by Pinsek Limited, which is registered in the British Virgin Islands. Its representative in Georgia is Kakha Kobiashvili, a relative of Ivanishvili’s. Kobiashvili chairs Ivanishvili’s companies Georgian Holding and Holding 21.
Ivanishvili, who has mobilized his more than six billion dollar fortune in an effort to remove President Saakashvili from power and launched an opposition movement, responded by saying that the government is desperate and trying to cling to power through what he called ‘violence’.
“Government started total violence. This is their final fight, which will fail,” Ivanishvili said.
Two days ago Aleksandr Ronzhes gave comments strongly critical of the Saakashvili regime at a press conference alongside the owners of Global TV, Channel 9 and Stereo+.
Shortly after Ivanishvili went into politics in October 2011, his Cartu Bank was dramatically accused of money laundering by authorities, but the accusations never led to formal charges and the confiscated money was later returned to the bank.