gigi ugulava - Sevdia Ugrekhelidze - 2013-02-22

Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava appoints Sevdia Ugrekhelidze as his replacement, in case he himself ends up in prison. (Interpressnews.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–As Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava is slapped with charges of money laundering and embezzlement, he appoints who will replace him if he is arrested.

Thursday evening, Ugulava presented Sevdia Ugrekhelidze, a Tbilisi Council member, as the new first vice mayor, saying that she is ‘the most dedicated person and has never betrayed anyone.’ She replaces Davit Ninidze.

Ugulava was elected for a four year term in 2010. If he is arrested for the serious charges brought against him Thursday, he will have to resign, and the first vice mayor will take over his duties until the next election.

As next in line after Ugrekhelidze, he chose Vano Merabishvili to be vice mayor. He is secretary general of President Mikheil Saakashvili’s National Movement party, and formerly interior minister and prime minister.

Ugulava said at a briefing that Merabishvili has great political experience, as well as agricultural experience, in order to fulfill all promises and all infrastructure programs which Tbilisi City Hall is conducting or plans to implement.

The mayor, who is seen as a close ally of the president, also said that he appointed Merabishvili ‘in order that the prime minister and his team conquer Tbilisi City Hall.’

“I am ready for every investigative action. I do not have problems with it. But you should know, and I appeal to the prime minister and his team, that they cannot possess Tbilisi City Hall,” the mayor said.

The mayor continued saying he hasn’t committed any crime and berated the investigators at the Finance Ministry for hardly being able to ‘dig up two accusations’ which he said had been produced by use of threats against his family.

He said he thinks the government wants to take over the power in Tbilisi and throw him out.

“If the freedom of my country goes through war, I am ready to go in the war once again. If the freedom of country goes through jail, I am also ready to go to jail. If the freedom of my country goes through death, I am ready to go through this, but I cannot get on with a schizophrenic, crazy dictatorship,” he said.

Vano Merabishvili, who was prime minister for a few months before the parliamentary election in October, 2012, said that he will fulfill his new duties if needed.

“If it happens and Ivanishvili manages through violation of every rule and won’t let Gigi Ugulava fulfill his duties as mayor, the same minute, the same day I will move to the City Hall office and fulfill the function of the mayor together with my friends, in order not to allow chaos in this city,” Merabishvili said.

Chief Prosecutor Archil Kbilashvili said on the TV show ‘Ghia Eteri’ (Open Airwaves) that there is no plan to detain Gigi Ugulava on Friday.

He said if they wanted to detain the mayor they could have done it already.

“This person expresses readiness to be in the country and cooperate with investigation,” Kbilashvili underlined.

The prosecutor said that as soon as Ugulava is charged, he will be handed the evidence in the case. The evidence will also be made public.

Another one of Ugulava’s vice mayors is Shota Khizanishvili. He is currently on bail awaiting trial, accused of abuse of powers while he was Merabishvili’s deputy at the Interior Ministry.