Nodar Khaduri - Irakli Alasania - 2013-03-07

Finance Minister Nodar Khaduri (left) and Defense Minister Irakli Alasania. (Ministry of Defense.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–The government accuses former officials during Saakashvili’s time in power of having embezzled state money in order to purchase luxurious cars and unnecessary apartments.

The apartments were discovered at military bases which are in a bad condition and need repair work. The former military officials reject the accusations.

Former Defense Minister Bacho Akhalaia, and the chairman of the Joint Military Staff used to own comfortable apartments at a military base. The apartments are located next to each other and consist of a few large rooms. The offices of the former officials have large adjacent resting rooms and also kitchens, and the apartments are equipped with expensive furniture and home appliances.

About a month before visiting the base, the Defense Ministry informed that it was selling luxury cars and was planning to replace the cars with cheaper ones. The total price of the cars is USD 1 200 000 and additionally there is an armored Mercedes SUV valued at half a million dollar.

According to the Defense Ministry, the cars were purchased shortly before the parliamentary election.

The apartments have been sealed for months, but on Wednesday the defense minister and finance minister visited the military base and discovered them.

It happened as Defense Minister Irakli Alasania came to inspect the base, because the prime minister had instructed him to repair the infrastructure of the armed forces. They had decided to go and study current problems at military bases.

Akhalaia, who owned one of those apartments, is now in detention awaiting trial with five charges. He was interior minister for two months last year, but left the country after President Saakashvili’s party was defeated in the election. The Prosecutor’s Office immediately detained him when he returned, together with Giorgi Kalandadze, former head of the Joint Military Staff, who is also charged, but was released on bail until his trial.

Finance Minister Nodar Khaduri said financial analyses of previous years revealed that eight billion GEL, nearly USD 5 billion, has been spent on arms and military bases.

“But we want to know where the money was spent. Unfortunately many military bases are in poor condition. It seems those eight billion laris was spent for facades with many other things. You have seen the offices of the minister, which he didn’t really need, in fact,” he said.

Irakli Alasania noted that almost all military bases are in a bad condition or destroyed; only the defense academy and cadets’ education center are exceptions. He also noted that ‘it is obvious’ that those eight billion, which was spent since 2004, hasn’t been spent on the soldiers.

Akhalaia on Wednesday wrote in a statement he had learned about Alasania’s ‘irresponsible accusations’ in the prison.

He drew attention to Alasania’s accusations about setting up illegal paramilitary forces in Samegrelo region which ‘turned out not to be true.’

Now, he says, Alasania is again making irresponsible and unreasonable accusations.

“It is dishonest to speak about such things from people well experienced in Defense Ministry issues,” he writes, “because me and any military person are prohibited by law to speak about our defense and defense fences, which gives our country, cities and each soldier, huge force, and in case of aggression, Georgia is much better protected today than it was before 2008,” Akhalaia writes in the statement, which was published by National Movement activist Tea Tutberidze.

He says the Defense Ministry did its best in order to create better conditions for the soldiers serving their country.

Akhalaia also mentioned the academy and school of cadets, which always surprises its guests, including the prime minister and the education minister, who recently visited them.

He further pointed to how the defense industry developed in Georgia in 2009-2012, when they unveiled unmanned aerial vehicles, the automatic rifle G5, anti-tank grenade launchers, mortars, the first Georgian light armored vehicle Didgori and the infantry fighting vehicle Lazika.

As for the cars, apartments and their arrangement, Akhalaia says that he understands why the current defense minister cannot see why those were necessary for effective work.

“I can for sure tell you that the current minister spends at least five hours in his office and I can also assure you that for the six months of work, he hasn’t even seen half of the brigades which belongs to the Defense Ministry,” the letter reads.

Kalandadze responded the same day saying that the Joint Military Staff had undertaken numerous infrastructure programs, and that the statements by the current ministers are lies.