The Defense Ministry announced today that they are pursuing a lawsuit for compensation in Tbilisi City Court against United National Movement-era Defense Minister Davit Kezerashvili and Head of the Procurement Department during his tenure Aleksandre Ninua.
Kezerashvili, currently a 51% shareholder of government-critical Formula TV, was sentenced in absentia in the case of embezzling over EUR 5 million on September 7, after the Supreme Court overrode the 2017 acquittal ruling by the Court of Appeals. Meanwhile, Ninua had been already convicted.
The Defense Ministry said today it is demanding compensation for the damages caused to the Ministry with Kezerashvili’s and Ninua’s “criminal activity.” Slamming the UNM administration, the Defense Ministry said the embezzlement “clearly reflects the conscientious attitude” of the previous government toward the state budget.
Giorgi Gelkhauri, Kezerashvili’s lawyer, suggested that with the lawsuit the authorities aim to freeze the assets of the government-critical Formula TV, and “suppress free speech” two days before the October 2 local elections.
Gelkhauri argued the Defense Ministry’s announcement for pursuing compensation “was directly related to Formula TV and its editorial policy,” adding the authorities “are maximally trying to create problems” for the television network.
Kezerashvili was the chief of financial police from 2004 till late 2006, and then served as Defense Minister until December 2008, before going into business.
Several separate sets of criminal proceedings have been brought against him since the change of government in Georgia in late 2012; in two of them, heard in the Georgian courts, Kezerashvili was acquitted in absentia. Also, a court in London in 2016 and a court in France in 2014 rejected his extradition demands.