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Wanted Ex-Governor Seeks Asylum in France

Mikheil Kareli, former governor of Shida Kartli Region and a close ally of ex-Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili, handed himself in to French police and requested political asylum, his associates in Tbilisi said on July 24.

The Georgian General Prosecutor’s Office, however, said Kareli had been arrested by the French police. It also said in a statement on July 24 that it would send “all the necessary documentation for his extradition” in the next few days.

Kareli was dismissed as governor on September 12, 2007. Ten days later he was arrested and charged with bribery and illegal business practices. In October 2007 he was released on a GEL 200,000 bail (over USD 122,000) after pleading guilty. In November 2007 Kareli, however, was put by the Georgian law enforcement agencies on a wanted list, having jumped bail. It is unclear how Kareli managed to enter France.

In April 2008 France granted political asylum to Irakli Okruashvili, whom Tbilisi City Court had found guilty of “large-scale extortion” the previous month, sentencing him to 11 years in prison in absentia.


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