TBILISI, DFWatch–Tbilisi City Court Thursday released on bail the last two persons who had been detained in the so-called tractor case. All in all, seven are accused on charges spanning negligence, state money embezzlement and pressure on experts.
The court set a USD 6 000 bail each for Givi Kaikhosroshvili and Vazha Nakhutsrishvhili.
The tractor case involves officials from the Agriculture Ministry, who were detained May 1. The case also involves representatives of companies that deal with the ministry employees.
Davit Kirvalidze, Minister of Agriculture, resigned in May in relation with the case and has been questioned several times already.
According to the investigation, ministry employees pressured a group of experts working on a criminal case in order to make them reach a conclusion which would was suitable to them, and this way they avoid criminal responsibility. Omar Tedoradze, Zaza Makharoblidze from the ministry were detained for this, also Vazha Nakhutsrishvili and his deputy Besik Tetvadze were detained from Mekanizatori Ltd and Otar Karchava, professor at the Agriculture University.
In December 2012, the government allocated about USD 32 million to assist village population and support them in plowing and sowing. Mekanizatori Ltd was instructed to purchase tractors and other equipment for this purpose, and a commission was set up to monitor this process, which included Agriculture Ministry employees and Mekanizatori representatives.
According to prosecutors, while selecting equipment, commission members selected the worst tractors among those proposed and embezzled about 10 000 euros for each tractor in January 2013, 2 500 000 lari in total.
To cover up this, the accused persons are said to have pressured a group of experts working on this issue and forced them to write a suitable conclusion to avoid being caught.
The court sentenced the seven detainees to two months of preliminary detention, but later released Teo Urushadze, from Agriculture University, Mamuka Ivaniadze and Besik Tetvadze, deputy directors of Mekanizatori, on bail.
Some time later, two more detainees, Otar Karchava and Zaza Makharoblidze, were released on bail until the trial.
On Thursday, Tbilisi City Court released the last two of the detainees, Givi Kaikhosroshvili and Vazha Nakhutsrishvhili, on a USD 6 000 bail.
After leaving the courtroom the suspects said the judge had made a correct decision, as the charges are absurd and they hope trial will determine this soon.
Davit Kirvalidze, the former agriculture minister, attended the hearing on Thursday and said in a comment that releasing the suspects on bail is a step forward towards ending this case fairly.
Meanwhile, the Agriculture Ministry plans to sell the poor quality tractors it purchased and announce a new tender.
The new head of the ministry, Shalva Pipia, told journalists that there are currently 2 000 tractors for agricultural purposes, but that this is not enough. 1 000 tractors out of them belongs to Mekanizatori. The rest belongs to private persons.
“We need 5 000 tractors in total,” he said, but didn’t specify when the misappropriated tractors will be sold and a tender announced.
The Public Defender’s office said Friday it is also studying the tractor case.