More covertly recorded audio and video tapes, apparently aimed at causing demerge to opponents just few days before the parliamentary elections, emerged on September 27.
Among them were several audio recordings purportedly featuring some of the senior figures from the Georgian Dream opposition coalition portraying them in a negative light.
But before the release of these tapes, Maestro TV aired in its noon news bulletin on Thursday, undated video, uploaded on an anonymous YouTube account on September 26 and recorded roughly more than eight years ago in Tbilisi mansion of late tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili. The covertly recorded black and white video shows President Saakashvili; late PM Zurab Zhvania; Erosi Kitsmarishvili, who at the time owned Rustavi 2 TV; Vano Chkhartishvili, who at the time owned Mze TV; and Patarkatsishvili himself, who at the time owned Imedi TV and who later turned into government’s main foe, discussing over dinner how TV channels should have been ran in post-Rose Revolution period; in one segment of the video Saakashvili speaks of a need to have “a clear plan” guaranteeing that no television station would wage war against the new authorities.
A separate video from the same YouTube account, also recorded in Patarkatsishvili’s mansion apparently few years later when relations between Patarkatsishvili and the authorities were getting tense, shows an eleven-minute conversation between the late tycoon and Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava; the latter tells his interlocutor, that he came to make it clear that his actions were perceived as being directed towards undermining government’s policies, which in turn, directly or indirectly, was playing into the Kremlin’s hands and he should not be surprised if the authorities started taking “adequate” actions in response; Patarkatsishvili responded that if the authorities had such perception than he had to speak out publicly in defense of his position.
In response to this video, Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava said in a written statement on September 27, that it was his last meeting with Patarkatsishvili, who died in February 2008, to warn him that his anti-government actions, following authorities’ “refused to give him special privileges”, was part of the Russian plot.
“I still believe that giving special privileges to oligarchs is inadmissible and I still fight against it today. Georgia still faces same challenges,” Ugulava said.
Apparently referring to leader of Georgian Dream opposition coalition Bidzina Ivanishvili, Ugulava continued: “A Russian-orchestrated oligarch is still trying to take over Georgia. I am confident that the Georgian people will overcome this challenge too with dignity and will not allow oligarchs to turn Georgia back into the past.”
Two hours after the video was aired, Imedi TV showed a covertly recorded footage of Georgian Dream majoritarian MP candidate in Gardabani single-mandate constituency, Mamuka Areshidze; the heavily edited video shows Areshidze talking with an activist, to whom a body-worn hidden camera was attached, about securing votes in various precincts of Gardabani and in the end of the conversation giving him cash. Areshidze said that the video was “fabricated” in a sense that it was edited in such a way to discredit him and to make it seem like he was giving money as a bribe.
This video was then followed by series of covertly recorded audio tapes first aired by the Rustavi 2 TV in its 3pm news bulletin on September 27 and featuring several senior figures from the Georgian Dream coalition. A newly launched YouTube account where these audio files were uploaded also includes a video message from a former security guard of Bidzina Ivanishvili in which he claims that the audio files were made as a result of covert surveillance ordered by Ivanishvili to record conversations of his coalition members.
In one audio recording a man, purportedly Georgian Dream’s majoritarian MP candidate in Kutaisi, Gubaz Sanikidze, tells his interlocutor: “We should make money, whether it is politics or not, we should make money… I want neither career nor presidency… I have to make money; I have to become a millionaire.” In a separate audio recording, the same man, purportedly Sanikidze, makes personal attacks on Ivanishvili, as well as on his family. In other audio recording, Ivanishvili’s right-hand man, Irakli Garibashvili, who runs for MP on the Georgian Dream’s party list, apparently speaks on phone and slams Georgian Dream’s majoritarian MP candidate in Sagarejo, Tina Khidasheli of Republican Party, with use of strong swear words. In a separate audio recording a woman, purportedly Eka Beselia, the Georgian Dream’s majoritarian MP candidate, says of Zakaria Kutsnashvili, Georgian Dream’s majoritarian candidate in Tianeti, that he’s “idiot” and “scum”.
Bidzina Ivanishvili said that all these recordings were “fabricated” by the authorities to, on the one hand, “overshadow” the prison abuse scandal and on the other to portray as if there was an internal wrangling within his coalition. He told Maestro TV on September 27 that relations were still “friendly” within the coalition.
“They [the authorities] try to overshadow those criminal acts, which we have seen [in videos showing torture and rape of inmates] and try to shift the focus on these so called compromising materials,” Ivanishvili said.
“The only thing that I am concerned about now is [the fate] of this guy,” he said, referring to his security guard who has claimed that he was behind these audio recordings. Ivanishvili said he was sure the guard made this statement under duress from the authorities.
He also added that even if recordings were authentic – “they are not, but even if so, what special have you found there [in those recordings] that might be interesting for the country? There is nothing [special].”