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Some money has gone missing in Tbilisi again2009-03-12 09:58
On 10th March, the Georgian Labour party accused the authorities of misappropriating state funds. Foreign financial aid from the USA and the European Union has "disappeared".
As Labour party members Iosif Shatberashvili and Tamaz Shioshvili reported at a press conference in Tbilisi: "Since the August war," Rosbalt quotes their statement, "our foreign partners have transferred four billion euros to Georgia, of which only 10 percent has been spent appropriately." According to the Labour party, the remainder of the money has ended up "in the pockets of officials" and in private bank accounts.
If the reports of the embezzlement of state funds are confirmed, this will be yet another heavy blow to Mikheil Saakashvili. Even without this latest development, the damaged reputation of the current regime will suffer not only within the country, but also beyond its borders. The current patrons are unlikely to be pleased by news that out of all the money allocated to help develop the Georgian economy, barely a tenth has reached its target.
This is not the first time that Mikheil Saakashvili has had to listen to unpleasant allegations of financial irregularities. Already in January, the general secretary of the Georgian Labour party, Iosif Shatberashvili, released information suggesting that the New Year's holiday taken by the president's wife in the USA cost the state $150,000. The now former defence minister David Kezerashvili was also implicated. Back then, the Labour party also accused him of wasting enormous sums of money in a Las Vegas casino ($18,000 in a day). Incidentally, this at a time when the Georgian economy is suffering from a deep crisis.
And a few days the former prime minister and now head of the opposition party "Movement for a Just Georgia", Zurab Nogaideli, joined those trying to expose the financial activities of the regime. According to him, the August war was lost precisely because of the embezzlement of public funds which Saakashvili indulged in. "When we needed weapons, it turned out that there weren't any, and what we had turned out to be useless," RIA Novosti quotes Nogaideli. "This amounts to treason. I was always sure that territorial integrity and the Georgian army were sacred concepts for Saakashvili. And now I see that the money which we spent on buying arms was "pocketed" by Saakashvili and his entourage."
For the moment, the authorities are giving no comment. Therefore we can only guess at how much truth there is in these allegations. And what it is actually - another retort by the "dissenters" or the trump card which the opposition has had up its sleeves for a good while, and has just now decided to show.