Billionaire opposition politician Bidzina Ivanishvili’s public movement, Georgia Dream, one of its donors and the latter’s employer firm, affiliated with Ivanishvili, have been fined with GEL 200,000 (about USD 120,000) each for donation which the state audit agency said was a sham transaction aimed at bypassing restrictions set by the political funding legislature.
On February 20 the Chamber of Control, the state audit agency also in charge of monitoring political funding, said that an employee of Cartu Mshenebeli, a company in Ivanishvili’s Cartu Group, received from its employer “unusually high bonus” of GEL 40,000 half of which he then donated to the Georgian Dream public movement.
The public movement, Georgian Dream, formally is not a political party but falls under the state audit agency’s monitoring because of the movement’s, as the audit agency puts it, “declared political goals”.
The Chamber of Control said that a donation made by Cartu Mshenebeli’s employee to the Georgian Dream was a clear case of channelling corporate money to Ivanishvili’s movement through an individual donor. Corporate donation to the political parties or groups “directly or indirectly” linked with political parties is banned by the new regulations.
The Chamber of Control called on the Georgian Dream on February 20 to return GEL 20,000 obtained through “an illegal scheme” back to the Cartu Mshenebeli, otherwise warned of sanctions – among them are confiscation of donated GEL 20,000 and a penalty ten times the amount of the donation in question.
The Georgian Dream, which in late January agreed to return GEL 1.1 million which the state audit agency claimed was obtained through sham deal, this time refused to heed the Chamber of Control’s, as it put it, “illegal demand”. The Georgian Dream said the donation was received in line with law and accused the state audit agency of illegally meddling in a private company’s and its employee’s affairs.
On February 27, the Chamber of Control announced that it had decided to fine all three players – Cartu Mshenebeli, its employee and the Georgian Dream – involved in “illegal donation” scheme with GEL 200,000 each; that is ten times the amount of the donation in question; in addition disputed GEL 20,000 donation will be transferred to the state budget.
The Chamber of Control also said that after studying the case it found out that the employee of Cartu Mshenebeli, who donated GEL 20,000 to the Georgian Dream and who had monthly salary of GEL 1,000, had never before received bonus from its employer in the course of "many years" of working for the company and GEL 40,000 bonus was the first of this kind for him.
“We possess information that political activities of various entities are underway with the use of such illegal schemes,” the Chamber of Control said in the statement on February 27 without specifying details. “For that reason we call on natural persons, who might be used for such illegal schemes, to refrain from actions of this kind. Otherwise sanctions envisaged by the law will apply them.”