On March 9, Imedi TV, a channel close to the Ivanishvili family’s business and with an editorial line strongly supporting the ruling Georgian Dream party, aired an extensive interview with Bera Ivanishvili, the son of GD founder Bidzina Ivanishvili. In this interview, Bera Ivanishvili did not deny the authenticity of the recently aired covert recordings, said they were done in the summer of 2011, and was unrepentant about his intention to punish those who insulted him, his family, or his mother.
“I would take them to account even today,” Bera Ivanishvili said, adding “show me a single Georgian man having a different opinion on this matter.”
This was the first personal reaction of Bera Ivanishvili on recently published covertly recorded phone calls, in which he is heard tasking Anzor Chubinidze, current Head of the Special State Protection Service (who once served as chief guard of Ivanishvili family) to humiliate and punish youngsters for insulting posts online. The recordings also show current PM Irakli Garibashvili praising and encouraging such actions.
Bera Ivanishvili insisted that the recordings refer to the period in 2011, months before his father announced plans to come to politics. He said he was targeted by an online bullying campaign, with the harassers intimidating his underage fans as well.
According to him, the cyber-bullying prompted the Ivanishvili family to task their security detail, Anzor Chubinidze, to speak with the bullies and their families.
“In the recordings, you can hear clearly as well, that when minors are in question, their parents, senior neighbors and others were in attendance [at the meeting],” he said, adding that “this was only [for giving] a verbal warning and advice.”
Bera Ivanishvili noted that the recordings were made and obtained illegally during the United National Movement government, which he said tried to baiting the Ivanishvili family into “making a mistake.” He accused the UNM of “total surveillance” of the whole country, not only “underage Bera.”
He also rebuffed allegations that the tapes could be dated 2017 as implausible, arguing it would mean the Georgian Dream government surveilled its own Prime Minister, SSPS head, the son of the party’s founder, and then provided the recordings to “opposition channels,” without pointing the exact date of the records.
Earlier yesterday, SSPS Head Anzor Chubinidze also spoke with Imedi TV about the covert recordings, saying that the events discussed in the “modified” covert tapes are dated late 2010, early 2011, when “provocative statements containing threats and insulting words were made against Bera during this period.”
Chubinidze says he then talked to one of the youngsters behind the social media posts, with neighbors in attendance “so that he did not feel intimidated” and left after ensuring that the minor would not follow up on the threats he had made.
TV Pirveli which released the tapes on March 6, alleged that the recordings could be dated 2016-2017 – when the Georgian Dream was in power. To back up this suggestion, TV cited several details, including the mentioned age of one of the persons who was targeted by Chubinidze. Bera Ivanishvili is also heard at one point telling Garibashvili about “all those ministers who call him [Garibashvili]”.
The Prosecutor’s Office announced a probe yesterday into the legality of obtaining and disseminating the tapes. The Georgian Dream politicians and officials have argued that the content of the tapes reveals nothing illegal or unethical about the actions of the current Prime Minister Garibashvili or head of SSPS, Chubinidze.