TBILISI, DFWatch — The Prosecutor’s Office has dropped two out of four charges against former Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili.
He was part of the government of Saakashvili’s National Movement party, but turned against him and was forced to leave the country in 2007. He returned after the change of government in 2012 and is now in prison facing several trials.
Temur Mikaberidze, chair of the department for combating money laundering, on Tuesday said two of the four charges had been dropped.
He said that Okruashvili was charged with abusing powers when signing a contract with two construction companies during his time as defense minister. The companies fulfilled services valued at more than USD 6 million and the two companies appropriated hundreds of thousand of lari from the deals.
He was also charged with signing an agreement with another company about providing 4 000 tons of petrol. The price that was paid for the petrol was more than the market price at the time, inflicting a USD 205 500 loss on the government.
In April, 2007, Okurashvili purchased an area in Tbilisi together with other persons. They paid USD 1 800 000 for the property, and the prosecutor asserted that this was in fact a money laundering scheme.
But Temur Mikaberidze said the investigation has revealed that in both cases, the agreements were signed by Iason Chikhladze, former chair of the acquisitions department of the Ministry of Defense, who is currently declared a wanted person. There is no evidence implicating Irakli Okruashvili in the two cases mentioned so far.
Mikaberidze explained that there are trials concerning three additional cases in which Okruashvili is implicated. Tbilisi Appeals Court is reviewing one of those cases, which is about receiving a bribe.
In addition, the former minister is charged with organizing illegal groups and negligence. The Prosecutor’s Office is studying the cases, and will soon inform the public in more detail.
January 4, the court decided to keep Okruashvili in detention, while the Prosecutor’s Office asked to have him released on bail.
Mikaberidze thinks this decision was illegal under Georgian law, because the court doesn’t have a right to make a more severe decision than the prosecutor demands.
“We think this was a politically motivated decision, which to make Irakli Okruashvili become a personal prisoner of the court.”
The Prosecutor’s Office plans to drop the charge in a case which will be reviewed by the Appeals Court on January 10.