Court of Appeals Upholds Guilty Verdict into Khazaradze-Japaridze Case
The Tbilisi Court of Appeals upheld on January 26 a guilty verdict into the so-called money laundering case delivered by the first instance court against founders of TBC Bank and opposition Lelo party leaders Mamuka Khazaradze and Badri Japaridze, as well as businessman Avtandil Tsereteli.
Khazaradze, Japaridze, and Tsereteli were charged with money laundering in 2019 under Article 194 of the Criminal Code of Georgia. Prosecutors argued that the bank loaned about USD 17 million in April and May of 2008 to Samgori Trade and Samgori M, owned by Avtandil Tsereteli. According to the investigation, Tsereteli funneled the money back to Khazaradze and Japaridze, while the loan itself was written off in 2012.
On January 12, 2022 the Tbilisi City Court found Khazaradze, Japaridze and Tsereteli– initially charged with money laundering – guilty of fraud and sentenced them to seven years of prison. But the Court released them from the sentence as the statute of limitations had passed.
Mamuka Khazaradze, who waited for the verdict with his party colleagues at the Lelo party office, said the charges were “legally absurd” and that society had been watching “political justice” for four years.
Khazaradze went on to say that the trio had been found guilty in a charge that had not even been discussed in court and that even the prosecutor’s office had confirmed in writing that they do not press fraud charges. “This is pure nonsense… We were charged by a judge, not by the prosecution. There is no such thing in any law,” Khazaradze said, adding that “this is a gross violation of human rights”.
“This is the court created by Bidzina Ivanishvili, inherited from the previous government, and I am sure that these judges will judge the leaders of Georgian Dream [as well],” Mamuka Khazaradze told reporters, adding that “this is the theatre of the absurd, this is the country of the absurd, and it cannot go on like this”.
“This whole process is a farce, only to announce a pre-made decision a few months later,” Badri Japaridze said, adding that “the saddest thing is that a three-member college of judges is involved in this farce.”
According to him, during the review of the case in the Court of Appeals, it was “absolutely clear” that the decision of the first instance had been invented only to accuse them of “anything”. Japaridze believes that since the money laundering charge could not be proven, the other charge of fraud was invented.
Vato Tsereteli, son of Avtandil Tsereteli, also reacted to the Appeals Court’s verdict, saying that even this “ugly” court system could not satisfy the “fantasies” of Bidzina Ivanishvili, the Georgian Dream party founder, and send the defendants to prison.
Prosecutor Archil Tkeshelashvili, said that while the appeals court, like the city court, accepted all of the prosecution’s evidence, it disagreed with them on the qualification of the crime.
Khazaradze, Japaridze, and Tsereteli will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. The Prosecutor’s Office will decide on this after receiving the substantiated verdict.
- 15/01/2022 – Ombudsperson: Khazaradze-Japaridze Case Materials ‘Do not Contain’ Money Laundering Elements
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