(UPDATE: the original text was updated with adding last three paragraphs with comments from a ruling party MP)
Davit Usupashvili, leader of the Republican Party, part of the billionaire politician Bidzina Ivanishvili’s planned opposition coalition, called on the chief prosecutor’s office to launch probe into, what he called, doctoring of the party funding legislation after its approval with final reading by the Parliament.
The provision in question involves the one, which caused much stir over the retroactivity issue.
Speaking at a news conference on December 30, Usupashvili said that the final draft distributed before the vote in the Parliament and then voted with its final reading contained a wording making the legislation retroactive. He also said that no verbal remark was made by lawmakers before the vote that would have indicated on modifying of the wording. But the version of the wording posted on the state online registry of legal acts, Usupashvili, continued, was different from the one passed by the Parliament.
Usupashvili argued that there was all the sign to suggest that the text of the bill was amended after it was passed with its third and final reading, which, he said, constituted a criminal offense involving misuse of office and fabrication.
“A crime has been committed either by the leadership of the Parliament, which has amended already the voted text or by the President who has modified the text passed by the Parliament,” Usupashvili said. “I call on the chief prosecutor’s office to launch investigation into this crime in order to find out who has committed this fabrication.”
Republican Party was among those four opposition parties, allied with Ivanishvili, who were recipients of total of GEL 4.1 million in recent two months in donations from twelve companies, most of them affiliated with Ivanishvili. In case of retroactive effect of the new party funding regulations these parties should have been obliged to return funds remaining on their accounts at the time of enacting the new legislation back to their donors.
As senior ruling party lawmakers said on December 29 the provision in question was misinterpreted and it had no retroactive effect whatsoever.
Usupashvili said that being aware of the final version of the draft, which envisaged retroactive effect, the Republican Party started to “hastily” spend its funds. He said “large part” of the party funds received from Ivanishvili was spent to cover office space rent in advance for next several months, purchasing gasoline enough for next few months and procuring several vehicles.
In a joint statement on December 30, Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association and Transparency International Georgia said that wording of the provision in question in the final draft of the legislation was different from the one which was now available on the website of the state online registry of legal acts. The watchdog groups called on the Parliament to clarify at what stage this provision of the legislation was amended.
Ruling party lawmakers argue, that sponsors of the legislation stated before the final vote publicly that the new regulations would not have any retroactive effect and these public statements were sufficient for making amendments in the bill before its publication.
“Sponsors of this legislation, including MP Pavle Kublashvili, have said number of times very clearly, including during the committee hearing prior to the vote with its third reading, that the legislation would not have any retroactive effect,” MP Akaki Minashvili of the ruling party said.
He also strongly rejected opponents’ claims that the approved law was later doctored because of pressure from the U.S. embassy, which expressed concern over the legislation’s retroactive effect. MP Minashvili, who chairs parliamentary committee for foreign affairs, said it was utterly groundless speculation, adding that although listening and taking into consideration recommendations from the various stakeholders and the country’s western partners, it was the Georgian authorities, including the Parliament, who was taking final decisions.