The General Prosecutor’s Office released on December 25 extracts from what it said was a covertly recorded audio tape of a conversation between business tycoon and presidential candidate Badri Patarkatsishvili and Irakli Kodua, head of Special Operations Department (SOD) of the Interior Ministry.
The conversation, according to the General Prosecutor’s Office, took place on December 23 in Patarkatsishvili’s mansion in Surrey, England.
“This recording was made by Mr. Kodua and was done in agreement with the British secret services, who were kept informed by us,” Nika Gvaramia, the deputy chief prosecutor, said on December 25. “We were not planning to publicize this tape, because of its sensitivity in the midst of an election campaign. But as the Patarkatsishvili campaign has itself started publicizing certain material, we thought it better to respond in kind. In any case, this is a matter of state security. The tape is two hours in length, but we are at this stage releasing a 25-minute extract.”
The extract, aired on Georgian TV, begins with a man, said to be Patarkatsishvili, telling Kodua of the importance of creating “an internal split” within the Saakashvili inner-circle. “Everything will be over as soon as that happens,” he says.
The conversation then moves to the international context, with claims that Saakashvili was losing international support.
“Today the only one helping Saakashvili is Mathew Bryza [the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs] and also his boss, Daniel Fried [the Assistant Secretary],” Patarkatsishvili says. “He has no other defenders. They are helping him because this [referring to Saakashvili] is their project and therefore they do not want to lose the game, together with Misha [Mikheil Saakashvili]. He has no other defenders and even these people will turn their back on him immediately, because to lose Saakashvili is not something very important for them; they don’t care about him.”
His interlocutor then asks: “Ok; but let’s say the elections are over and on January 6 Misha is announced as the winner; what then? What are we doing then?”
“It is simple, people there will decide,” he replies. “They [apparently referring to the opposition parties] were stupid. They managed to gather 150,000 people at a protest rally [on November 2] and then let them disperse. It was possible to put an end to everything on that very same day. Those people didn’t come out to look at the faces of Levan [Gachechiladze, the nine-party opposition coalition’s presidential candidate] and Shaliko [referring to Shalva Natelashvili, presidential candidate and leader of the Labor Party].”
The conversation – through editing of the tape – then jumps with Patarkatsishvili saying: “Today, people are already getting ready. It’s even impossible to get a weapon in Tbilisi, because everybody is preparing.” Neither men in the tape gave a fuller contextualization of this particular comment.
Then the two men discuss possible ways of “neutralizing” Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili after the election. Kodua says that although he controls two special purpose units within the Interior Ministry it would be very difficult for him to directly target Merabishvili because of his “devoted security detail.”
“Isn’t it possible to make him lose consciousness somehow?” Kodua is asked. He replies: “Yes it is, but there is no way of making it happen immediately.” Patarkatsishvili then says that “it is possible using an injection,” but because of security it would be technically impossible.
Kodua then says he will be able to give a clearer picture on Thursday, December 27, following meetings with unspecified persons “to clarify what is the situation in the army.” “This [Interior Ministry] is only one link; there are other links as well and all of them should be connected to make one plan,” he says.
The two men also discuss financial matters. “Valery [Gelbakhiani, former head of Patarkatsishvili’s campaign] told me that you want USD 100 million. I think that this is too high, but at the same time, I believe that it is equal to the existing risk. So, I agree to give you this sum. I am also ready to transfer some of it in advance to your account. But you’ll be able to withdraw money from that account only after we have made certain progress [in implementing the plan],” Patarkatsishvili tells Kodua.
“It’s important to understand that whatever happens, you can be sure that your family will be taken care of, no matter how things turn out.”
Shortly before the General Prosecutor’s Office released the audio tape, the Patarkatsishvili campaign office released a short video tape, apparently shot by security cameras at Patarkatsishvili’s mansion, showing several men searching Kodua before meeting with Patarkatsishvili. The campaign office also released a short audio tape, in which Patarkatsishvili tells Kodua that he is “a man of his word” and he will fulfill what he has promised in his pre-election program.
It hasn’t been possible to compare the two audio tapes as none of them are available in full versions.