One of the blatant illegalities that the Georgian authorities have repeatedly committed in the last few months is that they seize one’s property without bringing charges against the owner of such property or any other person with whom the owner may somehow be associated. Under Georgian law, as an interlocutory coercive measure, seizure may only be applied if there is an accused in a criminal case, writes Alexander Baramidze, lawyer currently working for Bidzina Ivanishvili.
Article 151(1) of the Georgia Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) which deals with the seizure of property provides:
“For the purpose of providing for use of criminal procedure coercion measures, possible property forfeiture, the court, based on the party’s motion may seize the property of the defendant, the person financially liable for the defendant’s actions, or/and his associate, including bank accounts, when there exists a suspicion that the property will be hidden or spent and/or the property derives from crime…”.
The above quotation indicates that what may be seized is a property of (a) defendant; (b) the person financially liable for the defendant’s actions; and/or (c) defendant’s associate. “Defendant” or the “accused” is someone who has officially been charged with having committed a crime. Without anyone being charged with a crime no seizure may take place.
As was noted in the beginning, among other patterns of behavior, the Georgian authorities have shown this one: they conduct seizures without bringing any charges against anyone.
The first good example was the seizures of the Global TV and Maestro TV satellite dishes. In both cases the properties of the above companies were seized even though nobody had ever been charged with the crime which the Government allegedly seized those satellite dishes to disrupt or prevent. Moreover, in more than five and two weeks following the seizures of the Global TV and Maestro TV satellite antennas respectively, still nobody has officially been charged with and prosecuted for any crime to which either company might have had any connection.
Another example is that of the world-famous Georgian footballer, Kakha Kaladze, a man who spent most of his professional career in AC Milan, winning with this club numerous trophies, including two European Champions League titles. Just recently, the Georgian authorities froze his bank accounts which allegedly had been used for money laundering. However, neither Kaladze, nor anybody else with whom Kaladze could have been associated, was charged with the crime of money laundering. Curiously enough, the judge that ordered the seizure of his bank accounts wrote in his writ that Kaladze’s accounts would remain frozen “till the execution of verdict”. The verdict against whom? One who does not exist?
The reason why the Government does all those illegalities is more than apparent. By this and other unlawful measures they want to deprive one of the opposition leaders, Kakha Kaladze, who is going to run for elections as a Georgian Dream candidate in the upcoming parliamentary elections, of the opportunity to finance his own political campaign. And of course this message will remain unknown to most of the Georgian voters because the key vehicle by which the independent TV companies were planning to disseminate their signals to the Georgian public – satellite dishes – have been seized as well.