Final hearing in alleged $16.7 mln laundering case involving Lelo party leaders postponed

 Tbilisi City Court is scheduled to hold a final hearing in the money laundering case involving the Lelo opposition party leaders on January 11. Photo: RFE/RL., 16 Dec 2021 - 16:59, Tbilisi,Georgia

The final hearing in a case of alleged money laundering involving founders of TBC Bank and current leaders of the Lelo Opposition party, Mamuka Khazaradze and Badri Japaridze, has been postponed to January 11 on the request of the prosecution. 

The court was scheduled to deliver a verdict today.

Both Khazaradze and Japaridze were charged with laundering $16.7 million on July 24, 2019 in a case that dates back to 2008 when LTD Samgori M and LTD Samgori Trade allegedly received the same sum in a loan in an accelerated manner from TBC Bank ‘without providing anything in collateral’.

Georgian businessman Avtandil Tsereteli, whose son owns the opposition-minded TV Pirveli channel, has also been charged as an accomplice in the case.

The prosecution claims that Japaridze and Khazaradze appropriated the money which belonged to the bank and then laundered it through various transactions. 

The prosecution stated earlier today that the reason why they requested the postponement of the trial  was to ‘provide additional evidence as lawyers’ final speeches at the trial today were controversial.’ 

Prosecution is waiting for conviction of Khazaradze, Japaridze and Tsereteli. Photo: Chief Prosecutor's Office of Georgia.

Japaridze said that the case and the ‘invented charges’ are an ‘example of absurdity,’ noting that the prosecution has no evidence that any offense took place. 

He said that ‘it is unclear’ why the prosecution requested the postponement of the hearing. 

Both Japaridze and Khazaradze say that the case is ‘politically motivated’ and aimed to reject the Anaklia deep sea port project ‘which aimed to strengthen Georgia’s geopolitical role.’ 

The Anaklia Development Consortium won a state tender to construct the port and signed a deal with the government in 2016 with TBC Holding as its principal partner. 

However, the project was paused in 2019. 

Khazaradze said that the founder of the ruling Georgian Dream party Bidzina Ivanishvili ‘unleashed a war’ against him to create problems for the construction of the post ‘which was not in Russian interests.’ 

Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili stated last year that the government will start the process of selecting a new potential investor for the Anaklia Deep Sea Port project ‘in the near future.’