Georgia’s former defense minister, Davit Kezerashvili, wanted in Georgia on multiple criminal charges including corruption, was detained in France on October 14, the Georgian Interior Ministry said on Tuesday.
A court in southern French city of Aix-en-Provence ordered detention of Kezerashvili pending extradition hearing, Georgia’s ambassador to France, Ekaterine Siradze-Delaunay, said, adding that Kezerashvili was detained in the southern city of Nice.
She said the Georgian side now has forty days to submit its extradition papers with the relevant French authorities.
Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported quoting a source from the French police that Kezerashvili was detained Monday at the Nice airport as he was trying to board a flight to the Albanian capital Tirana.
“He was stopped by border police during an identity check. The police realised that he was the target of an international arrest warrant," the source told AFP.
The Georgian prosecutor’s office, which said that Kezerashvili was detained upon the Georgian side’s request, has confirmed that it is seeking ex-defense minister’s extradition.
Kezerashvili, along with the Georgian passport, also holds Israeli citizenship.
“From the legal point of view citizenship of a third country does not represent an impediment for extradition,” Irakli Chilingarashvili, head of the legal department at the Georgian prosecutor’s office, said on October 15.
Kezerashvili, 35, faces criminal charges into two separate cases.
In January, 2013 charges were brought against him in connection to the case involving alleged USD 12.3 million bribe-taking for providing 'protection' to ethyl spirit smuggling scheme between 2007 and 2012. In the same case, Kezerashvili was also charged with violation of customs procedures as investigators claim that the smuggling scheme resulted in up to GEL 49.4 million losses for the state budget in unpaid taxes.
In a separate case, Kezerashvili was charged in February 2013, along with Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava, with misappropriation of state funds and money laundering. Ugulava was charged without being arrested, while in case of Kezerashvili, the Tbilisi City Court ordered his pre-trial detention in absentia. Trial into this case is now ongoing.
This case involves allegations that Kezerashvili, along with Ugulava, was involved in a scheme through which, as the prosecution claims, state funds were used to seize Imedi TV channel in 2008.
Kezerashvili’s defense lawyer in Georgia, Shota Mindeli, said charges against his client are “politically motivated.”
Kezerashvili was chief of the financial police from 2004 till late 2006 and then served as Defense Minister till December 2008 before going into business.