The Tbilisi City Court has ordered United National Movement-era Defense Minister Davit Kezerashvili and the Head of the Procurement Department during his tenure, Aleksandre Ninua, to jointly pay EUR 5,060,000 in compensation to the Defense Ministry.
The Defense Ministry stated today that Kezerashvili — currently the majority shareholder of government-critical Formula TV — and Ninua had embezzled the money by funneling the amount to an offshore company to hold training for the Ministry. The service was not provided, however, as per the statement.
Following the announcement, Formula TV management and Kezerashvili’s lawyer suggested that the Georgian Dream Government aims to freeze the former official’s 51% stake in the government-critical station.
Zurab Gumbaridze, General Director of Formula TV argued that while the asset freeze is not “on the agenda yet,” it is the eventual goal of the authorities.
Arguing the GD Government wants to suppress critical media, Gumbaridze said the authorities have begun to resolve “domestic problems” while the public is focused on Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Kezerashvili’s lawyer Shota Mindeli claimed that in the end, the Defense Ministry “will say it was unable to receive compensation for the damages” and demand the asset freeze.
The government-critical channel reported that its majority shareholder does not plan to pay the ordered compensation and will appeal the decision in the second instance court.
The Defense Ministry has previously claimed that it had no intentions to demand the freezing of Kezerashvili’s stake in Formula TV.
The Ministry took to the Court on September 30, 2021, to seek compensation for, as they put it, Kezerashvili and Ninua’s “criminal activity.”
The development came after Kezerashvili received a ten-year sentence in absentia in the embezzlement case on September 7, after the Supreme Court overrode the 2017 acquittal ruling by the Court of Appeals. Meanwhile, Ninua had already been convicted.
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.
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NB: This article was updated at 18:26, March 29 with remarks of Formula TV Director and Davit Kezerashvili’s lawyer.