Irakli Okruashvili, an ex-defense minister, was arrested late on September 27, two days after he launched an opposition party and levelled a series of serious accusations against President Saakashvili.
“A group of men from the criminal police came into the party headquarters and took Irakli Okruashvili without giving any explanation,” Tamuna Rukhadze, a spokesperson for Okruashvili's party, told Civil.Ge.
The General Prosecutor’s Office is expected to hold a news conference later this evening.
The arrest of Okruashvili comes two days after he launched a political party – Movement for United Georgia - and levelled a series of serious accusations against President Saakashvili.
“The police smashed in the door and broke in without giving any explanation,” Nana Lezhava, a former journalist and member of the new party, said.
“This is retaliation, political retaliation,” Eka Beselia, a lawyer and a member of Okruashvili’s party, said.
“With this act, President Saakashvili has actually confirmed that the allegations levelled by Okruashvili were true,” Kakha Kukava, a lawmaker from the opposition Conservative Party, said.
“The criminal, murderer president and the government has launched massive repression,” lawmaker Koka Guntsadze, also a member of Okruashvili’s party, said. “We will establish a resistance movement.”
On September 25 the Revenue Service launched a probe into alleged tax evasion by Okruashvili’s party. The Revenue Service claimed that the party, when purchasing its headquarters in downtown Tbilisi, declared that it was worth GEL 250,000, instead of USD 1.8 million, which the Service considers to be the real market price.
The Revenue Service is also engaged in a tax audit of ARTI Group, a distributor company for Procter&Gamble, Gillette, Wella and other companies.
ARTI Group is owned by Kibar Khalvashi, a close friend of Okruashvili's. Khalvashi owned the Tbilisi-based Rustavi 2 television station when Okruashvili was in government. He, however, sold up shortly after Okruashvili quit in November 2006.
Also on September 25, the president’s spokesman, Dimitri Kitoshvili, was arrested and charged with extortion.
Kitoshvili, who also has close links with Okruashvili, according to the General Prosecutor’s Office, “extorted” 2.6% of shares in mobile operator company Geocell from ex-lawmaker and businessman, Jemal Svanidze, last year. The shares were obtained, Nika Gvaramia, the deputy general prosecutor, said, by one of the founders of ARTI Group, Guram Gogua. However, Gogua was merely “a fictional buyer”, Gvaramia said.
On September 27, Georgian media sources reported that law enforcement agencies were probing into the alleged embezzlement of state funds related to the construction of a military base in Senaki, which was opened last year when Okruashvili was the defense minister.