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Ombudsperson: Khazaradze-Japaridze Case Materials ‘Do not Contain’ Money Laundering Elements

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Georgian Public Defender Nino Lomjaria, who addressed the Tbilisi City Court on January 9 as a friend of the court (Amicus Curiae) over the allegations against TBC Bank founders Mamuka Khazaradze and Badri Japaridze, stressed that “the case materials do not contain the elements necessary for assessing an action as a crime of money laundering.”

According to Georgian legislation, a friend of the court (Amicus Curiae) is an interested person who is not a party to a case under review and who may submit to the court his/her own written opinion with regard to the case.

The Public Defender’s Office reported on January 15 that Lomjaria’s written address to the court is based on “the content-related, structural and targeted analysis of the crime of legalization of illegal income (money laundering).”

The document gives legal explanation of money-laundering as a crime, its specific prerequisites, scheme and purpose. Noting that “prior to the process of legalization of the illegal income, it is necessary that there be illegally obtained “black money” and an attempt of the offender to integrate that money into the monetary-credit system,” adding that “a predicate offence usually implies a systematic, repeat offence.”

However, the Public Defender highlighted, in Khazaradze-Japaridze case there is not “even a one-off preliminary, predicate offence, not to mention a repeat predicate offence.”

According to the document, the defendants did not follow the general money-laundering scheme, and “did not deposit the disputable money in different accounts, did not divide it into smaller amounts for the purpose of avoiding control, did not make small transactions and did not get the money back to their account, which should have been the main purpose of the crime.”

Ombudsperson Lomjaria said that when considering the case and making the final decision, “the court must rely on the international practice relating to money laundering, which refers to the necessary existence of the above elements.” Georgian Public Defender also “hopes that the document will help the court make a fair assessment of the case and a proper decision.”

Mamuka Khazaradze and Badri Japaridze are facing criminal investigation over money-laundering allegations involving a USD 17 million transaction that took place in 2008.

Khazaradze immediately denied the charges, claiming the legality of the said transaction was inspected multiple times by the local and international fiscal authorities and no “red flags” were raised. He then said the bank was suffering an “orchestrated” political attack.

Developments around TBC Bank have brought into question the fate of the Anaklia Deep Sea Port project, a USD 2.5 billion investment on the Black Sea coast not far from Abkhazia, where Mamuka Khazaradze’s TBC Holding was the leading partner.

The Anaklia Development Consortium, a joint venture of TBC Holding and U.S.-based Conti International, was awarded the contract to build and operate the deep sea port in 2016; construction works commenced in December 2017. However, less then a week ago on January 9, the Government of Georgia decided to terminate its contract with the Consortium.

Khazaradze, who now leads a new political union “Lelo for Georgia,” has linked the TBC case to the construction of Anaklia port, suggesting that the purpose of the investigation could be to squeeze him and Japaridze out of the project.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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