07TBILISI2437, OKRUASHVILI DETAINED FOR CORRUPTION, OPPOSITION

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI2437 2007-09-28 10:49 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO1024
OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHSI #2437/01 2711049
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 281049Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7773
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 002437 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR DAS BRYZA AND EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM GG
SUBJECT: OKRUASHVILI DETAINED FOR CORRUPTION, OPPOSITION 
PROTESTS 
 
REF: A. TBILISI 2415 
 
     B. TBILISI 2424 
 
1. (U) Summary: Former Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili 
was arrested in his office on the evening of September 27 by 
the criminal police and detained in the Special Operations 
Department (SOD) detention facility.  Charges leveled at 
Okruashvili by the Prosecutor General's office include: abuse 
of power, negligence, extortion, and money laundering. 
Okruashvili refused to acknowledge the charges and claimed he 
is a political prisoner.  A number of other opposition 
leaders jointly condemned Okruashvili's arrest as politically 
motivated.  They said the arrest, just two days after the 
announcement of his opposition party (ref A), confirmed 
Okruashvili's charge that the government is corrupt. 
Furthermore, they said he could not have undertaken illegal 
activity as MOD without President Saakashvili's explicit 
consent.  The opposition is calling for a public protest at 
Parliament this Friday (September 28) at 1400 hours.  End 
Summary. 
 
---------- 
The Arrest 
---------- 
 
2. (U) Okruashvili was arrested in his office on the evening 
of September 27 around 2030 hours and detained in the Special 
Operations Department (SOD) facility.  A special unit from 
the criminal police broke into Okruashvili's party's office 
and took him into custody without incident.  Imedi TV 
reported that its camera crews were present and recorded the 
arrest, but their cameras were confiscated by the police. 
One hour later, the head of Okruashvili's security, his 
driver, and approximately 10 supporters were also arrested in 
the party's headquarters.  Okruashvili's lawyer, Eka Beselia, 
said the arrest was "political retaliation." 
 
----------- 
The Charges 
----------- 
 
3. (U) The charges against Okruashvili were detailed on TV by 
Deputy General Prosecutor, Nika Gvaramia.  Gvaramia stated 
"the Georgian authorities' struggle against corruption is an 
irreversible process,"  and that Okruashvili's arrest is but 
another step in this struggle.  Gvaramia said that the arrest 
was the result of a joint investigation by the Prosecutor's 
Office, the Investigation Department of the Georgian Finance 
Ministry Revenues Service, and the Military Police. 
 
4. (U) The first two charges state that as Minister of 
Defense, Okruashvili had his friend Kibar Khalvashi establish 
a construction company in early 2005 and subsequently granted 
the company lucrative military construction contracts in 
exchange for kickbacks.  The extortion charge centers on the 
case and supposed testimony of former Presidential 
Parliamentary Secretary Dimitry Kitoshvili (ref B).  Both 
Okruashvili and Kitoshvili are now accused by the government 
of having extorted 2.6 percent of the shares of the mobile 
phone company Geocell from Jemal Svanidze.  The money 
laundering charge focuses on the recent acquisition of 
Okruashvili's new party headquarters.  Gvaramia said that 
Okruashvili "legalized his illegal incomes" by concealing the 
real value of the property, USD 1.8 million, when he bought 
it for USD 250,000. 
 
5. (U) Beselia later met with Okruashvili, who has refused to 
acknowledge the charges.  Beselia announced that "He says he 
is innocent; he also said he was a political prisoner." 
 
----------------------- 
The Opposition Protests 
----------------------- 
 
6. (U) Leaders from most other opposition parties (although 
not the New Rightists) condemned Okruashvili's arrest as an 
example of the government's heavy-handedness.  Former 
Georgian State Minister for Conflict Settlement -- and new 
member of Okruashvili's Movement for a United Georgia party 
-- Giorgi (Goga) Khaindrava was the most outspoken. 
Khaindrava said "The arrest is not a way out."  He said the 
government's response to the questions Okruashvili posed "was 
completely unintelligible,... and absolutely inadequate."  He 
continued, "I am absolutely convinced that under the regime, 
which he (Saakashvili) created in Georgia, nothing could have 
happened without him.  Therefore, he should serve a term 
together with Okruashvili, if the latter's guilt is proved." 
People's Party leader Koba Davitashvili stated that 
"Saakashvili confessed guilt, having detained Okruashvili, 
 
TBILISI 00002437  002 OF 002 
 
 
and he should be punished."  Zurab Tkemaladze, of the 
Industrialists, said "we will stand with the other opposition 
parties." 
 
7. (U) Republican Party leader Tinatin Khidasheli called on 
"every person who esteems freedom of speech, equality and 
pluralism to come to the parliament to defeat terrorism and 
overcome fears.  She and the other leaders are planning a 
public protest before Parliament at 1400 hours on September 
28.  The New Rightists, in contrast, kept their distance fro
m 
the demonstration, with faction leader Pikria Chikradze 
saying the opposition should find a more constructive 
approach to limit government overreaching. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
8. (SBU) Coming on the heels of Okruashvili's sensational 
allegations September 25 against President Saakashvili, the 
arrest has rallied most of the opposition against the 
government's heavy-handed handling of this case.  Government 
officials are likely to continue to argue that Okruashvili's 
September 25 charges were timed in the hope of buying him 
some political protection from prosecution.  If so he was 
unsuccessful, but as a result of the sequence of events the 
Georgian government's image has taken a huge blow.  The 
government can also claim that testimony received from 
Okruashvili's recently arrested associates, implicating 
Okruashvili, provided the impetus for the timing of the 
arrest. 
 
TEFFT

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