Tbilisi mayor, Gigi Ugulava, has been charged with misspending of GEL 48.18 million (about USD 28.2 million) of public money from the capital city’s development fund, the municipal entity which was designed to finance rehabilitation of old parts of Tbilisi.
Ugulava, who was charged without being arrested, said after leaving prosecutor’s office following his questioning on December 18, that charges are politically motivated.
Prosecution says that the case against Ugulava involves two episodes with both of them related to funneling of public funds for covering various expenses of the United National Movement (UNM) party in 2011-2012.
Charges into this same case were filed against five former officials from the Tbilisi municipality in June, 2013, including former deputy mayor of the capital city Davit Alavidze; ex-head of the Tbilisi Development Fund Giorgi Sabanadze; ex-head of the procurement service in the Tbilisi City Hall Alexi Tabuashvili; ex-head of Old Tbilisi district Davit Avaliani and the latter’s deputy Dimitri Chkheidze.
Prosecution claims that GEL 13.85 million of Tbilisi municipality funds were illegally channeled for financing UNM and its activists through creating 719 fictitious jobs in the Tbilisi Development Fund; money was transferred from November, 2011 till June, 2012 in a form of monthly wages on salary cards issued to 719 persons, who were fictitiously employed at the Tbilisi Development Fund as “building research specialists”, the prosecution claims.
In a second episode, according to the prosecution, GEL 34.32 million was withdrawn from Tbilisi Development Fund’s bank account in several installments in a period from June till October, 2012 and handed out to UNM party activists in Tbilisi. The group was “acting upon Gigi Ugulava’s instructions,” prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
Ugulava said after leaving the prosecutor’s office following his questioning that this case against him is “absurd.” His supporters were gathered outside the prosecutor’s office while he was questioned.
“It is completely politically motivated,” he said after charges were filed against him. “Local elections are approaching and the government is in a difficult situation because Ivanishvili named a weak candidate [for Tbilisi mayoral race, infrastructure minister Davit Narmania] and now they are thinking about how to sell this candidate to Tbilisites; to do it they have to get rid of all the other candidates.”
“These fabricated charges against me will burst like bubble,” Ugulava said.
In February, 2013 Ugulava was charged with misspending and embezzlement of large amount of public funds and money laundering into two separate cases; trial into those charges is currently underway.