Anti-Corruption Agency of the State Security Service on March 28 detained Tsalenjikha Municipal Council member Gela Abuladze of For Georgia on fraud charges. Ex-prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia’s party sees the arrest as politically motivated.
The agency alleged that in 2020 Abuladze conspired with an employee of the Tsalenjikha Mayor’s office to fraudulently register nine state-owned plots of land — totaling 100,083 square meters and worth GEL 406,250 (USD 126,557) — into private ownership of Abuladze’s relatives and acquaintances.
The investigation has been led under Article 180 (2a, 3b) of Georgia’s Criminal Code – fraud committed by more than one person with a preliminary agreement in large quantities and under Article 341 – Forgery by an official, envisaging imprisonment from 6 to 9 years.
Abuladze was elected in the October 2021 polls to the Tsalenjikha Sakrebulo in Georgia’s western Samegrelo region, which emerged as one of a handful of opposition-led Municipal Councils after the bitterly-contested elections.
In the lead-up to the municipal elections, For Georgia, along with other opposition outfits, repeatedly accused the Georgian Dream Government and law enforcement agencies of persecuting and pressuring its candidates.
For Georgia chair, Giorgi Gakharia served as the Prime Minister of Georgia from September 2019 to February 2021, when he resigned over the forthcoming detention of United National Movement leader Nika Melia and subsequently went on to launch his own party.
For Georgia Responds to Councilor’s Detention
MP Mikheil Daushvili of For Georgia claimed at a press briefing today that the Anti-Corruption Agency had launched the investigation into the case ahead of municipal elections, to “pressure Gela Abuladze and his family members.”
“Georgian Dream can not accept losing elections in the municipalities and tries to change the political situation and the choice of citizens through illegal arrests, bribery, sabotage of municipalities,” MP Daushvili said.
Another member of the For Georgia party, Berdia Sichinava accused the GD of pursuing politically motivated persecution to “unlawfully change the results of the 2021 elections.”
Sichinava also reiterated an earlier claim that the Georgian Dream “bribed and recruited” one of For Georgia’s elected councilors in Tsalenjikha, Nana Lemonjava, to quit the party and go independent.
In the aftermath of October 2021 local polls, Gakharia’s For Georgia has managed to elect its members as chairs of Senaki, Zugdidi, Rustavi, Tsalenjikha and Chkorotsku Sakrebulos, in cooperation with the United National Movement.
Currently, in the 27-member Tsalenjikha Sakrebulo, Georgian Dream and United National Movement each have 11 councilors, Lelo party has one, For Georgia has three, and one member is independent.
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