Internal Affairs Minister Denies Security Services Collaboration with FSB

On 15 September, for the first time since the allegations were made, Vakhtang Gomelauri, the Minister of Internal Affairs, addressed and denied the events revealed during a TV Pirveli investigation which aired on 10 September and asserted that in 2016-2017 Georgian security officials, chief among them Minister Gomelauri, met with their Russian counterparts from the FSB in secret.

Whisteblower Alleges Security Services Collaboration with FSB (click for details)

The TV Pirveli investigation in question is based on claims made by the former deputy head of the State Security Service of Georgia (SSG), Ioseb (Soso) Gogashvili, and corroborated by the former head of his security, Aleksandre Samkharadze.

Gogashvili’s key allegations were:

  • He met with FSB General Alexei Sedov in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia, in 2016, to prepare a personal encounter between then SSG Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri and FSB Director, Alexandar Bortnikov. For this task, Gogashvili claims to have been directly tasked by Bidzina Ivanishvili, a business tycoon and the founder of the “Georgian Dream”.
  • He names specific, verifiable circumstances of Gomelauri’s eventual air trip to Vladikavkaz to meet Bortnikov. Gogashvili says the airplane needed to be freighted from Georgia’s “Airzena” company due to an avalanche, and that pilots were under audio surveillance and claims to have the tapes available.
  • He alleges that in 2017 two Russian FSB generals, Sedov and Sergey Beseda were received in Georgia by SSG head Gomelauri, who hosted them in a restaurant in a town of Mtskheta (near Tbilisi) that he owns, then returned to Tbilisi for sightseeing and finished the day in one of the clubs.
  • A second meeting between Bortnikov and Gomelauri allegedly took place in Minsk also in 2017, but Gogashvili is not aware of the contents.

As specific cases of collaboration he also mentions: 

    • SSG cleared with the FSB the name of the Russian embassy worker to be expelled in response to the Salisbury attacks.
    • Gogashvili says his refusal to clear two persons for Ambassadorial nominations was overruled by Gomelauri quoting requests of Ivanishvili and (then Prime Minsiter) Kvirikashvili. The two, alleges Gogashvili, were blacklisted by the Georgian counter-intelligence as Russian agents of influence.

In that regard, he emphasized that the events portrayed in the investigation on the basis of Gogashvili’s claims are a “complete lie,” while speaking with journalists. “Mr. Bidzina [Ivanishvili] could not have instructed him [Gogashvili] because he did not know him,” he added.

“How do you imagine it, I was the head [of the SSG] at the time and why would he instruct a person that he did not know to do something…,” the Minister said and underscored that Ivanishvili did not instruct him either.

Minister Gomelauri also said that if Gogashvili has any such evidence, he should release it. When asked in a follow-up question if it will be “awkward” if evidence surfaces, he underscored “No way. It cannot surface because such a thing did not happen.”

Meetings in Vladikavkaz, Minsk, Tbilisi

When asked by journalists about whether had been to Vladikavkaz or Minsk, the Minister denied having been to Vladikavkaz at all and while he did admit to visiting Minsk 5 or 6 times in the past, he stated that he had no communication with Russian security services there. “We went to official meetings and met with our colleagues,” he said.

In relation to his visit 2018 visit to Minsk, Minister Gomelauri posited that he had been there for the 100-year anniversary of the proclamation of the Belarusian People’s Republic alongside visitors from many other countries. While he reiterated that he did not meet any members of the Russian security service while there, the Minister admitted that members of the FSB, including Bortnikov, were present.

The Internal Affairs Minister also denied Gogashvili’s claim that he hosted FSB officials in Tbilisi, as well as at his own restaurant in Mtskheta, as well as the fact that he had ever owned a restaurant in Mtskheta.

Ambassadorial Appointments

When asked by journalists about Gogashvili’s statements regarding the Ambassadorial appointments of two people blacklisted by the Georgian counter-intelligence as Russian agents of influence, Minister Gomelauri denied these allegations as well.

While he admitted that there are cases when a candidate is a better fit for one country over another, regarding Gogashvili’s claim, he emphasized, “There was no such thing, otherwise it would have been blocked.”

Calls for an Investigation

Asked about the calls for an investigation into the allegations, Minister Gomelauri said that he was not against one.

In a follow-up specifically about the creation of a special Parliamentary Investigative commission for that purpose, he emphasized that if one is established, he will answer their questions.

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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