The Georgian prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday that it was investigating, what it said was, misappropriation of large amount of state funds for the United National Movement’s (UNM) pre-election campaign purposes.
It said in a statement that during a day-long event involving campaign rallies in eleven towns across the country on September 8, UNM hired minibuses for ferrying activists at a rally in Zugdidi in the Samegrelo region and allocated from its campaign funds GEL 39,900, which was enough for covering payment for drivers.
But fuel, the prosecutor’s office claims, was allocated by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The prosecutor’s office said that then deputy interior minister Nikoloz Dzimtseishvili and then head of the ministry’s Department for Constitutional Security Levan Kardava handed over to then head of the Zugdidi municipality Alexander Kobalia diesel fuel vouchers with total amount of 54,000 liters. Kobalia distributed those fuel vouchers to drivers of 393 minibuses, the prosecutor’s office said.
It also alleged that with the purpose of “lowering actual cost”, UNM “forged” documents and indicated that only 93 minibuses were hired.
The prosecutor’s office did not specify whether criminal charges were brought against anyone or not. Its spokesperson said that other details of the ongoing investigation would be announced later.
In a separate case, the prosecutor’s office also said, that UNM received covertly GEL 120,000 for covering transportation expenses for a campaign rally in Zugdidi on September 23 from deputy Tbilisi mayor Davit Alavidze; the prosecutor’s office said it constituted violation of campaign funding rules and for that reason the case was referred for further inquiry to the State Audit Office, which is chaired by former UNM lawmaker Lasha Tordia.
MP Mikheil Machavariani, who at the time was UNM’s secretary general, said that the party’s election campaign expenses were transparent and legal. Another UNM lawmaker, Irma Nadirashvili, said that allegations by the prosecutor’s office was “yet another case of political persecution against the opposition.”