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Davit Kezerashvili Responds to the Accusations Against Him

Davit Kezerashvili, former Minister of Defense and owner of a controlling stake in Formula TV, gave a wide-ranging interview to his television channel on April 2, in which he spoke about the change of government, his business interests in Georgia, the accusations against him and the extent of his involvement in Georgian politics.

Change of government

According to the former defense minister, the change of government in 2012 was “expected” and “logical” because the United National Movement government, which ruled the country for nine years, had to go and it was the will of the people. He also said that one of the main problems of the previous government was that it did not complete the reform of the judicial system, for which he said, “they didn’t find the right time, and it was a mistake”.

“There were constant challenges that accompanied [Mikhail] Saakashvili’s stay in power from the first day, and it [judicial reform] was postponed today, till tomorrow, till a little later, and finally it ended the way it ended,” he said, adding that he considers “unfair” being in exile with his family, as well as the attitude and persecution of the current authorities towards the representatives of the former government.

From the Ministry of Defense to business – what shares does he own in Georgia?

In an interview with Formula, Davit Kezerashvili also talked about his transition from the Ministry of Defense to business, denying accusations that he left the post with “money”. According to him, he had the opportunity to stay in politics after leaving office, but he preferred to move into the private sector. Based on his background and taking into account his previous positions, he had an idea about business opportunities in Georgia and, together with some friends, he set up a shipping company for oil products. With the help of contacts, he says, the new company, unlike others, offered partners a “simplified, one-stop-shop principle”, which “worked very well”.

“Unfortunately, I had to give up my shares in 2012. It was a demand from the new government to leave Georgia. I did that and left Georgia,” said Kezerashvili, adding that he no longer owns any business in Georgia and that his only asset is Formula TV. He also denied accusations of owning the illegal business of “call centres”, calling them “absurd”. He said he is currently involved in technology and real estate in several countries.

He said he is currently doing business in technology and real estate in several countries, although he refrains from giving specific details because, according to him, the current authorities are “trying to create problems”.

According to Davit Kezerashvili, he received the “first hint” from the current government to leave the country 10 days before the 2012 parliamentary elections, when he was told that he would be arrested if he did not leave. At first he did not take this seriously, but eventually had to leave with the family in October, as the threats became more frequent.

According to him, he never had direct contact with Bidzina Ivanishvili, and “people close to Ivanishvili came in touch”, including through Kezerashvili’s partners. According to the former defense minister, after giving up his business shares in Georgia, he was also asked to distance himself from Georgian politics.

“I didn’t get involved in Georgian politics anyway, although I had a lot of friends who are politicians even today (including Georgian Dream), and [I told them] I couldn’t stop communicating with these people… They had accepted it, but after a few months they filed the first case, probably thinking that this relationship was political…” he said adding that this was followed his first arrest in France, after which he realized that “these people are seriously engaged in persecution”.

Accusations against Kezerashvili

According to the former defense minister, the situation in which he and his family find themselves is an echo of the August 2008 war. “I don’t think the Kremlin is after me, although I think what happened in Georgia after the new government came to power was the persecution of the entire UNM government, to the point where even the officers were in danger, some of them were caught and expelled from the country.”

He compared the current situation in the country to a “war”, “only in different forms”. And said he is an ordinary soldier fighting the forces that are taking Georgia where its people don’t want to go.

Kezerashvili denied accusations that he had “plundered” the Georgian army, saying the UNM government handed over to the GD government GEL 2 billion defense budget, “almost 30 times more than before” as well as “an army of European standards, armed with the most modern weapons” available at that time for Georgia.

Referring to the guilty verdict against him in the training case, the former defense minister insisted that the training had indeed taken place, with 200 high-ranking former Israeli officers present in Georgia.

According to him, at the request of the Georgian government, an investigation into the exercise was launched in Israel in 2014 and was closed after establishing that the exercises had indeed taken place, the money had been paid, and “everything was in order”… “I can proudly say that I have made a significant contribution to the building of the Georgian Armed Forces, and I am only happy about it.”

Links with the developments within UNM

Speaking about the split in the United National Movement following the 2016 parliamentary elections,  Davit Kezerashvili said that he continued to communicate with his former fellow party members and had information about the ongoing processes in the party, although he did not participate in them.

He added that he supported the new party “to a certain extent”.

Kezerashvili also denied that the split of the European Georgia and the National Movement was the result of his collaboration with Bidzina Ivanishvili, saying that he had nothing to do with it, although he was aware of the process. “

Speaking about ensued confrontation with “European Georgia” he said that despite expectations for that party to become one of leading forces in Georgian politics, it did not happen. According to Kezerashvili, after the last parliamentary elections, he advised the leaders of the party to change their approach, which irritated some of them.

The former Defence Minister assessed the recent developments in the UNM and spoke about the confrontation with the former leader of the party, Nika Melia. According to his account, everything started with Nika Melia’s public speech in 2017, when he called Kezerashvili a “criminal”.

According to Kezerashvili’s account, the tensions were caused by the perception that Kezerashvili was interfering in the party’s affairs, which he denied.

Kezerashvili added that that he was friends with the new leadership of the National Movement and would “gladly” help them if necessary. “My task is to be one of the soldiers in this battle, which includes the fight against Russia and Georgia’s European path.”

“My relationship with Mikheil Saakashvili is special”

Speaking about Georgia’s jailed ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili, Davit Kezerashvili said he had a “special” relationship with him and was “very sorry” “because of the situation the current government has put him in”. “I hope they’ll come to their senses and do not push for the disastrous outcome”.

According to Kezerashvili, he had no information about the former president’s plans to come to Georgia, but noted that he did not see any “conspiracy” behind his return. “It’s just that the current Georgian government likes to build conspiracy theories – someone is involved in the war, etc. I don’t think so”.

“If we look at this decision from a political point of view, it will be difficult for me, because this story is not over yet, but from a purely human point of view, I think he made a difficult, dangerous decision, because he should have known well that the Georgian government would not welcome him with flowers.”

He added: “The Kremlin, Putin, would not allow the Georgian authorities to let him out and continue his work in Georgia as usual,” he said, adding that Saakashvili would have his role in Georgian politics in the future.”

Protest Rallis on March 7-9

Commenting on the 7-9 March protest rallies against the Russian-style “foreign agents” laws initiated by the ruling majority, Davit Kezerashvili noted that Georgian Dream should realize that “in 2012 the people did not give them a permanent mandate”. In his assessment, the current government is “accumulating the number of mistakes to the point where the Georgian people say – go to the opposition and someone else will come”.

Kezerashvili noted that the GD either has to understand this and do everything to ensure that “Georgia does not face any problems”, or they will start putting more pressure on the political spectrum, civil society and citizens. “What we see at the moment is that they are going in that direction,” he said, emphasizing the crucial importance of the opposition in this process.

Speaking about the opposition he said: “They have to find more in common with the people who are their voters or potential voters. They should offer more and convince them that they are the people who will lead Georgia to the final result – to the European path,” Kezerashvili said expressing hope that despite the “problems” on the opposition side, this is what will happen.

Awaiting the final verdict and future plans

According to Davit Kezerashvili’s expectation, “the government will go all the way and see it through that the “so-called” training case ends in a guilty verdict. “The execution will be in the hands of the authorities, who will decide when and how to use this lever against the “Formula TV”. They’ll probably wait for the political weather and do it when they think it’s right”.

According to him, however, the matter is “not that simple”. “They can take Formula, they can close Formula in this form, they can take my share of Formula LLC, but they can’t do anything to the team that’s there. They can’t do anything to the desire for Formula to exist and I have that desire,” he said, adding: “I have made a decision and Formula will continue. It may continue in another form, in another place, in another situation, but it will continue.”

As for his future involvement in Georgian politics, Davit Kezerashvili noted that he is not a party member, does not have a political party at this stage, and does not intend to create one in the future.

According to him, however, this does not mean that he should not be a politically active person and have his own position on the current processes in the country. “I intend to live [in Georgia] at some point if I get the chance.” He added: “If you are going to live here, it is impossible to be indifferent what kind of country you live in”.

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

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