Saakashvili faces life imprisonment

Saakashvili faces life imprisonment

The Georgian Chief Prosecutor’s Office has charged four ex-Interior Ministry officials, who held high posts during Mikheil Saakashvili's presidency, with plotting the death of businessman Badri Patarkatsishvili. Giorgi Merabashvili, Levan Kardava, Revaz Shiukashvili and Giorgi Dgebuadze are suspected of planning the "liquidation" of billionaire Patarkatsishvili by order of the president. The plan was not implemented for "technical reasons": a businessman who sponsored the Georgian opposition left for London in the autumn of 2007. In February 2008, he died in his Surrey mansion from a heart attack after the Georgian Prosecutor General’s Office opened a criminal case against him on coup plotting charges.

The Prosecutor General’s Office issued a statement which noted that the Interior Ministry officials could not carry out their plans, but it would not help them: an assassination and an assassination attempt are treated with almost the same gravity in the Criminal Code, up to life imprisonment. Judging by the prosecution files, it's about a civil servants conspiracy with the participation of the president. Two audio recordings, made in February 2007, were handed over to journalists, in which high-ranking Interior Ministry officials speak about scenarios of how to kill Patarkatsishvili, who was considered the main political enemy of the president and openly financed opposition parties.

First of all, the "conspirators" were considering the possibility of recruiting Patarkatsishvili's personal security staff member to use him to find out the parameters of the security system, the layout of the house, the location of security cameras, and then poison food with the help of a chef or bartender; or with the participation of cleaners "smear a deadly poison on the door handle," after touching which the billionaire would "die immediately." Another option was to pump poisonous gas in Patarkatsishvili’s bedroom. Judging by the second recording, the “liquidators” managed to recruit one of Patarkatsishvili’s bodyguards. The guard was convinced that he would get a high post or a huge amount of money for the murder of his chief, and he is not in any trouble, since the murder was ordered by the president.

Saakashvili, who lives in the Netherlands after being expelled from Ukraine, learned about the preparation of the fifth criminal case against him on Tuesday. Speaking live on opposition TV channel Rustavi 2 in the evening, he called the accusations "nonsense," stressing that the "sensation" was being inflated by the Georgian authorities several days before the presidential election scheduled for October 28. According to the polls, opposition candidate Grigol Vashadze is still ahead of the presidential candidate from the Georgian Dream ruling party Salome Zurabishvili.

Suspicions about the 'dump' on the eve of the election in order to discredit the current opposition led by Saakashvili are aggravated by the fact that, according to the admission of the General Prosecutor’s Office, the recordings were seized in 2016, but were published only now.

However, if the authorities try to influence the voters in this way, it does not mean that the charges are artificial and groundless. Much will become clear after the defendants will testify at the trial.

Saakashvili has already been sentenced in absentia by the Tbilisi court to three and six years in prison for brutal beating of businessman Valery Gelashvili, who insulted his wife in an interview, and for "unlawfully pardoning" high-ranking police officers convicted of kidnapping and killing banker Sandro Girgvliani. Two more criminal cases are in litigation: the dispersal of the opposition rally on November 7, 2007 and embezzlement of state funds. Apparently, in the near future Mikhail Saakashvili will be charged in absentia in the fifth case, which provides a punishment of life imprisonment.