Transparency International Georgia released a statement on the decision of the Tbilisi City Court on the criminal case against Mamuka Khazaradze, Badri Japaridze, and Avtandil Tseretel.
With this statement, we would like to react to the decision of the Tbilisi City Court on the criminal case against Mamuka Khazaradze, Badri Japaridze, and Avtandil Tsereteli. On January 12, 2021, the court delivered the judgement according to which no signs of money laundering offence were found. However, the Court reclassified charges of money laundering to fraud and found the defendants guilty, but due to the expiration of the statute of limitations, the convicts were released from serving their sentences.
* Based on the case analysis and the monitoring of the process, it should be stated that the criminal prosecution was clearly politically motivated and it may have served, on the one hand, to punish and discredit political opponents and, on the other hand, to terminate the construction https://bit.ly/3I2v1wy of a strategic infrastructure project of utmost importance for the country.
* In 2020, Pauline David, an independent international anti-money laundering expert invited by Transparency International Georgia, pointed out the critical issues in the case. The report was published https://bit.ly/3GrjnuO on May 14, 2020, and later submitted to the court. The findings of the report were based on the relevant Georgian legislation and international acts, the case files, assessment of internationally established practices in money laundering cases, as well as the information collected through meetings and interviews on the ground.
According to the report, in this case:
* There is no basis to prove Mamuka Khazaradze, Badri Japaridze or Avtandil Tsereteli committed a money laundering offence, either individually or as co-conspirators;
* Even if the court found every fact in issue in the case in favour of the prosecution, those facts are not capable of supporting a money laundering charge;
* Because the prosecution is barred by the statute of limitations from proceeding with a misappropriation charge, it is now not possible to prove the alleged predicate (preceding) crime. Even if there was sufficient evidence to justify laying a charge of misappropriation, the prosecution cannot now do so, and it must follow that it is also not now possible to prove to the criminal standard the existence of a predicate crime;
* According to international practice, circumvention of a statute of limitations by prosecuting a person for an inappropriate or artificially constructed charge (in this case money laundering) could be qualified as an abuse of process.
* Today, Georgian society has once again witnessed the realization of politically motivated justice. Although the trial has not ended up with the imprisonment of the leaders of the political party Lelo and a family member of the founder of the critical media outlet TV Pirveli, the court’s ruling had a political motivation and resulted in serious reputational damage to the defendants. Transparency International Georgia will continue to monitor the case in upper instances of the court, should a party decide to appeal the decision", - the statement reads.
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