Deputy mayor of Tbilisi, Davit Alavidze, and three other senior officials from the capital city's municipality were arrested late on Thursday in connection to ongoing investigation into misspending and embezzlement of GEL 48.9 million, the Finance Ministry's investigations unit said.
Three other officials are Davit Avaliani, head of the Tbilisi Development Fund at the capital city’s municipality; Alexi Tabuashvili, head of the procurement service in the Mayor’s Office, and Dimitri Chkheidze, deputy head of capital city's Mtatsminda district.
All four men were among those 23 officials from the Tbilisi municipality, who were arrested almost simultaneously in various locations of the capital city early on Thursday; all 23 officials, two of which were UNM members of Tbilisi City Council (Sakrebulo), were released by the noon on the same day, but four of them were again arrested later on Thursday. Tbilisi Mayor. Gigi Ugulava, and other senior figures from the UNM party said earlier on June 27 that the government apparently decided to release detainees in order to avoid a scandal while a high-level NATO delegation, including its Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, was visiting Georgia. But as soon as the NATO delegation left the city, the arrests resumed and more detentions may still come, UNM lawmaker Giorgi Vashadze said after midnight on Friday.
Finance Ministry's investigations service said in a statement that "it has been established" that Tbilisi's deputy mayor and three other arrested officials "along with other persons, have embezzled and misspent especially large amount of money, GEL 48,930,822."
It also said that that charges would be filed against "member of the criminal group" former head of the Tbilisi Development Fund, Giorgi Sabanadze, who is now at large.
Finance Ministry's investigations service said that it would provide details of the case on June 28.
President Saakashvili's UNM party says that the arrests are part of the authorities' campaign to pressure the opposition, which, they say, also harms Georgia's Euro-Atlantic aspirations.
UNM lawmaker, Giorgi Vashadze, said that against the background of, as he put it, "strong worded" statement made by the NATO Secretary General in Tbilisi on June 27, when he said that NATO was following the arrests of former government officials with "great concern", "we thought that the authorities would have taken note and stopped what they started in the morning", when 23 officials from the Tbilisi municipality were rounded up, but then released. "But as soon as [NATO delegation's] plane took off from [the Tbilisi airport], the arrests resumed," MP Vashadze said. "Such actions harm country's interests and undermines its security."