The parliamentary committee for human rights convened on June 17 chief of the Financial Police Davit Kezerashvili to give explanations regarding the incident involving a probe into fast food restaurants in Tbilisi.
Dozens of Kalashnikov-wielding masked men from the special unit of the Financial Police broke into the two fast-food restaurants operated by the firm Nikala in Tbilisi late on June 16 to confiscate the documents for the probe into alleged tax evasion. These two simultaneous operations were carried out while dozens of customers were having meal in the restaurants.
Parliamentarians, including Georgian Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze, as well as Public Defender Sozar Subari condemned on June 17 this incident as violation of human rights and excessive use of force by the Financial Police. Davit Kezerashvili apologized publicly on June 17 for this operation and vowed that the officials planning this probe will be held responsible.
At the parliamentary committee’s hearing on June 17 Chief of the Financial Police Davit Kezerashvili and parliamentarians from the ruling National Party demanded to hold the hearing beyond the closed door triggering protest by the opposition MPs.
“There might be issues discussed, which involve questions related to the investigation and publicizing of these issues will be unreasonable,” Davit Kezerashvili said.
MP Koka Guntsadze from the opposition New Rights said after the parliamentary committee hearing, which was held behind the closed doors, that the Financial Police is “intimidating business” which worsens investment climate in the country.
In April Davit Kezerashvili was fiercely criticized after MPs from the opposition Conservative Party unveiled a taped phone conversation between, as claimed by the opposition MPs, Kezerashvili and unknown person talking about illegal transactions, involving purchasing of cars for the Financial Police officials. The opposition demanded Kezerashvili’s resignation, but he was strongly backed by the ruling party activists and the President himself.
Financial Police was set up last year in an attempt to fight economic crime, mainly the smuggling. Davit Kezerashvili is a close associate of an influential MP Giorgi Arveladze, who is the political secretary of the ruling National Movement Party and a close ally of President Saakashvili.