A court in southern French city of Aix-en-Provence has ruled against extradition of Georgia’s former defense minister Davit Kezerashvili, who is wanted by authorities in Georgia.
Kezerashvili’s defense argued that in case of extradition ex-defense minister would face politically motivated prosecution in Georgia.
“Of course, I was expecting [such ruling]; I am very happy that the French court made such decision,” Kezerashvili told Georgian reporters after the ruling was delivered, adding that charges brought against him by Georgian prosecutors are fabricated and politically motivated.
Commenting on French court’s decision, Georgian Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani said: “I regret very much that the French judge was in unequal conditions wherein there were expensive lawyers hired by Kezerashvili on the one hand and a French prosecutor, not Georgian one, on the other hand, who as it seems failed to compete properly with expensive lawyers.”
During extradition hearings on January 30, prosecutor Solange Legras told the court she had “great reservations” about the extradition request, which, she said, appeared to be politically motivated, AFP reported.
Kezerashvili, 35, was chief of the financial police from 2004 till late 2006 and then served as Defense Minister till December 2008 before going into business.
He faces criminal charges into two separate cases in Georgia.
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. 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.