Family members of Kobakhidze and Selective Approach of the State
The majority has named Manana Kobakhidze as the Constitutional Court Judge Nominee. Kobakhidze was the vice-speaker during the previous convocation of the Parliament. During her work as an MP, she and her family members were reportedly connected to several instances of cases related to corruption. We are unable to verify or talk about anyone’s guilt. However, we believe that prior to making a decision, the Parliament should take interest and thoroughly look into the alleged instances of corruption that are allegedly connected to Manana Kobakhidze.
The case of the Pardon Commission - Manana Kobakhidze’s connection to the ‘Cocaine’ case
In December 2015, Aleksandre Elisashvili, the ex-chairperson of the Pardon Commission and the current member of the Tbilisi Council, announced that during his work as the chairperson of the Pardon Commission he had been pressured from high-ranking officials to pardon specific prisoners. Later on, Elisashvili elaborated that this pressure was coming from the then-Vice Speaker Manana Kobakhidze and chairperson of the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee Eka Beselia. According to Elisashvili, Beselia and Kobakhidze insistently demanded the pardoning of the persons related to the so-called ‘Cocaine case’. During the so-called “Cocaine case” in 2010, three persons were sentenced to 30 years in prison and one person was sentenced to 24 years. Manana Kobakhidze was especially active in this case; she systematically called and sent SMS to the head of the Pardon Commission.
According to Elisashvili, Beselia and Kobakhidze had received 200,000 USD and were to receive 1.5 Million USD if they achieved the pardoning of the persons related to the so-called ‘Cocaine case’. According to Elisashvili, he received the information about the cash transfer from a high-ranking official. The MPs have denied the accusations. According to Manana Kobakhidze, she only demanded the study of the case and that her interest was based on the protection of the human rights of the prisoners.
Based on the public statement of Aleko Elisashvili, the Chief Prosecutor began the investigation into the alleged case of influence peddling. The witnesses, including Manana Kobakhidze, Eka Beselia, so-called “Cocaine case” inmates and their family members categorically denied any collusion in corrupt dealings. It was not possible to retrieve the calls and SMS received on Aleko Elisashvili’s mobile phone. However, the administration of the President has confirmed that Elisashvili showed the SMS to the President. The Georgian Prosecutor’s Office has terminated investigation into this case on March 18, 2016, as the existence of corruption deal between so called ‘cocaine case’ convicts and politicians, named by Elisashvili, on pardon issue was not confirmed as a result of the investigation.
Activities of Tedo Kobakhidze in the Council
In the PS program of Rustavi 2 on June 12, 2016, Badri Javakhishvili, a former staff member of the Council, accused Tedo Kobakhidze of salary extortion. According to Javakhishvili, the chairperson of the human rights committee forced him to pay money from his salary.
According to Badri Javakhishvili, the brother of Manana Kobakhidze, Tedo Kobakhidze, was his classmate. Javakhishvili landed a job at the election HQ of Georgian Dream through Kobakhidze prior to the elections. According to Javakhishvili, Tedo Kobakhidze asked him to give money from his first salary to him and also donate to the party. Javakhishvili agreed.
After the local self-government elections, Kobakhidze became the chairperson of the Legal Affairs Committee of the Tbilisi Council through the quota of the Georgian Dream. He transferred Badri Javakhishvili to work at the Council and once again demanded a 35% cut from his salary. The money should have been provided through an online transfer, thus Kobakhidze gave his bank account details to Javakhishvili.
When Badri Javakhishvili got tired of paying the money, he was fired by Kobakhidze. After this, Javakhishvili notified Manana Kobakhidze, the vice-speaker of the Parliament, and then Kakhi Kaladze, the deputy prime minister of Georgia. Moreover, he demanded that Tedo Kobakhidze return the money that had been paid to him.
Manana Kobakhidze, who was a teacher to Javakhishvili, promised Javakhishvili that she would look into the case, while Kaladze, whom he did not know personally, suggested that he should address to the Prosecutor’s Office. Javakhishvili states that he had a difficult discussion with Manana Kobakhidze, after which the police raided his home and conducted a search. However, nothing was found as a result of the search.
Later on, Manana Kobakhidze, as well as Tedo Kobakhidze, denied all allegations in their address. Tedo Kobakhidze addressed the Prosecutor’s Office with a request to look into the threats made by Javakhishvili.
Tedo Kobakhidze’s activities are also connected to another scandal, namely to the discriminatory treatment of his staff. On 12 December 2016 on the PS program, Ana Vardosanidze, the chief specialist of the legal affairs committee of the City Council, spoke about fictitious employees. These employees allegedly have labor contracts and receive salaries and bonuses, but do not show up for work.
This information on the existence of fictitious employees was confirmed by the statement of Ketevan Turazashvili, the former head of the secretariat of the legal issues commission.
Five employees of the legal affairs commission addressed the chairperson of the Council with explanatory notes in which they write that Tedo Kobakhidze carries out persecution, discrimination and forces them to leave their positions. Ana Vardosanidze is amongst the five employees to have submitted the explanatory notes. Vardosanidze has worked in the Council for 17 years.
The head of the cabinet, Elene Dumbadze and the Chairperson of the Council, Giorgi Alibegashvili, were aware of the case.
Tedo Kobakhidze categorically denies the accusations, calling it a lie.
The case has a lot of witnesses, but in spite of this, there has been no investigation. A special sitting was to be held in the Council in this regard, but the sitting was cancelled. The statement released by the chairperson of the Council stated that he disapproved the need to dwell on the case. Currently, Kobakhidze is still on the same position and he has not been held responsible.
It is clear that there has been selective approach by the parliamentary majority and respective agencies in relation to the family member of Manana Kobakhidze. Moreover, the Parliamentary majority seeks the appointment of Manana Kobakhidze as Constitutional Court Judge.
The appointment to the Constitutional Court of a current member of the Parliamentary majority and former vice-speaker indicates the will of the government to politicize the court and appoint politically loyal persons in the court that deals primarily with constitutional law. This approach raises suspicions on the existence of the balance of powers between three branches of the government in the country. Moreover, this threatens the reputation of the constitutional court and hinders the increase of public trust towards this institution.