Georgian Dream lawmakers ponder terminating the parliamentary mandate of Badri Japaridze from the opposition Lelo party, who was found guilty of fraud by the Tbilisi City Court on January 12 in the controversial TBC Bank case. Japaridze walked away free as the statute of limitations on the crime had already expired.
Chair of the Parliament’s Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee, Mikheil Sarjveladze said on January 13 that there are formal grounds for considering the issue, alluding to Article 39 (5d) of Georgia’s Constitution. The paragraph stipulates that a lawmaker’s powers “shall be terminated” if they are convicted by a court judgment that has entered into legal force.
“This means that the issue has to be addressed,” the Georgian Dream MP added, maintaining the final decision depends on a number of unspecified factors that have to be taken into account in the process.
MP Japaridze retorted that if the Parliament terminates his mandate that would only “be assessed as a new wave of attempts at political persecution.”
Other opposition MPs, Salome Samadashvili, independent, member of Lelo parliamentary faction, Paata Manjgaladze of Strategy Aghmashenebeli and Aleko Elisashvili of Citizens have all concurred, underlining that they too would see the move as political persecution.
Meanwhile, MP Iago Khvichia pointed out the issue should not make it into the legislative body’s agenda, since the Constitution allows for early termination in instances when a court’s decision has entered into force, while in Japaridze’s case the ruling cannot be enforced due to the expired statute of limitations.
MP Japaridze, along with his long-time business-turned-political partner former MP Mamuka Khazaradze, and businessman Avtandil Tserteli, was found by the Court to have violated Article 180 (2a, 3b) of the Criminal Code, involving fraud committed by more than one person and in large quantities.
The ruling came as the prosecution maintained for about three years the defendants had committed money laundering. The Court re-qualified the initial charges and cleared the pretrial measures of bail and prohibition on leaving the country imposed on the three persons, and ruled to unfreeze their assets and bank accounts.
Khazaradze, Japaridze and Tsereteli deny having committed any crime and plan to appeal the verdict in the second instance court.
If GD lawmakers strip Japaridze of his mandate, the Lelo party would remain with only two members in the legislature – Ana Natsvlishvili and Davit Usupashvili.
Party leader Mamuka Khazaradze had his mandate revoked in November, in protest of “void” 2021 local polls. The party cannot bring in new members as replacements as it annulled its proportional list in 2020 during the parliamentary boycott, launched after the opposition rejected the results of parliamentary elections as rigged.
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