The Tbilisi City Court today ruled against Rustavi 2 TV co-founders Jarji Akimidze and Davit Dvali, who had demanded to have 60% of the company shares returned to them. The Court left the network in Kibar Khalvashi’s full ownership.
The two founders filed a lawsuit demanding the 60% stake in October 2019, having rejected Khalvashi’s offer to hand over 40% of the shares. They argued that top officials forced them in 2004 to give up the shares to another person, who then transferred them to Khalvashi. Dvali and Akimidze argued Khalvashi was colluding in the plan, and could not be considered an honest buyer.
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Akimidze and Dvali slammed the Court’s decision today and vowed to continue their fight to return the station to their ownership.
“I am shocked. It turns out that we were happy to hand over 60% of the network we built to some obscure person [Kibar Khalvashi] who has himself said for years that he felt responsible to us because we were mistreated,” Akimidze told reporters.
Dvali said he was astounded that the Court and the Georgian Dream government had disregarded their arguments.
Kakha Kozhoridze, the lawyer of the Rustavi 2 co-founders, said that they plan to appeal the ruling at the higher instance courts. If we do not win the lawsuit, we will definitely take this case to the European Court of Human Rights, he told Formula TV.
The current management of Rustavi 2 TV had expected such a decision from the City Court. The channel’s director-general, Paata Salia, said the founders’ lawsuit had its statute of limitations expired, and at the same time “certain factual circumstances were not corroborated.” “If there was coercion from anyone, it definitely was not [from] Kibar Khalvashi,” he said.
According to the latest records from the Public Registry, dated March 2021, businessman Kibar Khalvashi owns 60% of Rustavi 2 Broadcasting Company, while 40% is owned by Panorama Ltd., which is also entirely owned by Kibar Khalvashi.
Khalvashi himself reclaimed the shares in 2019, having won a lengthy legal battle he launched in 2015 against brothers Giorgi and Levan Karamanashvili, then-owners of Rustavi 2 and after the European Court of Human Rights ruled there was no breach in fair trial guarantees in the dispute.
In 2015, Kibar Khalvashi promised to transfer 50% of the network’s shares to its founders if he were to win the dispute, and also vowed to appoint Davit Dvali as General Director of Rustavi 2. Bu het backtracked on the promise after he registered as the sole owner of the network’s shares in July 2019.
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