Public Defender, Giorgi Tugushi, said on November 4, that his office had been studying the case of stripping Georgian citizenship from billionaire-turned-politician Bidzina Ivanishvili and his wife.
The Public Defender's Office released the statement few hours after Ivanishvili's lawyer and one of his aides, Eka Beselia, said she had requested the Public Defender to study the case and provide his assessment in the shortest possible time.
Tugushi said in the statement, that his office started looking into the Ivanishvili's citizenship case on October 20 upon its own initiative and requested on October 21 the Civil Registry Agency under the Justice Minister to provide all the documents related to the case. Tugushi said that his office received the requested information on November 3 and informed about it Beselia on the same day.
"The Georgian Public Defender will release his conclusions as soon as the studying of the case is completed," the Public Defender's statement reads.
‘Solidarity Accounts’ in Ivanishvili’s Cartu Bank
Meanwhile, Ivanishvili's supporters have launched on November 3 collection of signatures for a petition calling for restoration of Georgian citizenship to the billionaire philanthropist. Several opposition-minded non-governmental groups organized the process; petitions were available for signing in the headquarters of Ivanishvili's Cartu Bank; the groups said that it was their own initiative and an official from the Ivanishvili’s press office told Civil.ge on November 4, that Ivanishvili’s team had no role in collection of signatures.
In parallel, people were queuing up outside headquarters of billionaire's Cartu Bank on November 3 to open accounts in, as they said, show of their solidarity towards the philanthropist.
Cartu Bank has been embroiled in politically charged developments after its owner announced about going into politics. The bank saw sacking of its long-time top management after Ivanishvili accused chairman of supervisory board of being the government's "agent". On October 18 police seized the bank's cash of USD 2 million and EUR 1 million in what the Interior Ministry said was alleged money laundering investigation and then the central bank launched probe into the Cartu Bank's operations.
On November 1 the National Bank of Georgia (NBG) accused the Cartu Bank of "purposefully" hindering the probe by not providing some of the requested information to the inspection team.
Cartu Bank responded by accusing NBG of "seeking a pretext, no matter how unjustified, to bring a temporary administration" into the Ivanishvili's bank. It said that NBG demanded from the bank to provide "detailed personal information of every person, who expressed their solidarity and moral support by opening accounts" with Cartu Bank.
Head of the bank’s customer services unit, Eka Kiladze, told the Georgian daily, Rezonansi, on November 2, that up to 1,500 new accounts had been opened in previous two days. She said that it was a huge number for Georgian standards and although amount of each newly opened deposit might be as small as GEL 10, the move was important for the bank as it was show of solidarity. Number of newly opened accounts reportedly exceeded 3,000 as of November 4. Cartu Bank has never been focusing its operations on attracting individual customers. One employee of the bank told Civil.ge on November 4, that the bank had to assign additional staff from other units, ordinarily not in charge of customers’ service, to handle with influx of would-be customers.
Cartu Bank, which is the sixth largest bank by assets in Georgia (there are 19 commercial banks in the country), has only four branches and service centers in Tbilisi and four outside the capital city.