The background of newly shortlisted GNCC candidates
Before leaving office, former President Mikheil Saakashvili selected three candidates for the position of the member of the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC), which has been vacant since Irakli Chikovani resigned in July. TI Georgia again conducted a small public record background research on the shortlisted candidates. It appears that two of the candidates have strong links to the Bezhuashvili family. Member of Parliament Davit Bezhuashvili this week left the United National Movement Faction to serve as an independent parliamentarian.
The Parliament now has to vote to elect a new Commissioner by mid-December (within 30 days after submission of the candidates). The candidate that receives the most votes in the plenary (but no less than one third of the sitting members of the Parliament) will be appointed to the 5-member GNCC leadership.
This will be the second try for the Parliament to elect the GNCC member. In early October, none of the three shortlisted candidates at the time – Giorgi Choladze, Davit Tutberidze and Teimuraz Ghoghoberidze, all of which faced a strong risk of conflicts of interest – received enough votes.
By law, a GNCC member has conflict of interests if he/she is a member of a political party, holds another public office or is a paid employee or a shareholder of a company under the GNCC regulation holds any other direct or indirect economic interests towards such a company. His/her family members (individuals living in the same household) must not have any economic relationship with a company that is subject to GNCC oversight.
Giorgi Choladze was shortlisted by the outgoing President Mikheil Saakashvili for a second time for the GNCC Commissioner position. In October, he received more votes than the other two candidates (25 Members of Parliament voted for him, 21 MPs against him), but not enough to be confirmed. Giorgi Choladze is the director of LTD Georgian Media Holding, a company owned by Chemexim International (a Marshall Islands shell company), owned by Robert Bezuashvili. Through its subsidiary company, of which Choladze is a legal representative of, Georgian Media Holding publishes Business Week, an English language newspaper. It also operates Georgian Business Consulting – gbc.ge, a website and wire service publishing business news and PR stories. In 2009, the company produced a business news show, Capital, for Imedi TV.
Robert Bezhuashvili, is the owner of the Georgian Industrial Group and father of the Majoritarian Member of Parliament Davit Bezuashvili and of Gela Bezuashvili (a former Minister of Defense, Foreign Affairs, and acting head of Georgian Intelligence Service). The Bezuashvili family formerly owned shares in Rustavi 2, Mze and Pirveli Stereo (directly and through Chemexim International).
Choladze also headed the Georgian Media Union Holding (liquidated in February 2013), another company set up by the Georgian Industrial Group, to manage media assets at a time the holding was more involved in the Georgian media sector, alongside Otar Patarkalashvili, another shortlisted applicant for the for the GNCC leadership position (see below).
Together with his brother Levan, Choladze hold shares in the LTD Air Black Sea. Levan Choladze is the head of the Board of Directors and Director General at the Georgian Industrial Group and held a number of high-level positions in the UNM-government: In 2005, he was the Secretary of the National Security Council and later that year was appointed as the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. In 2007 and 2008 Levan Choladze was the Chairman of the Chamber of Control (now: State Audit Office) and then served as Deputy Minister of Agriculture until 2011.
Otar Patarkalashvili owns Georgian Media Consulting, an advertising and advisory firm. Until November, Patarkalashvili was the director and representative of several companies owned by the Bezhuashvili family. He was the director of Wimax Georgia, an internet provider formerly owned by Chemexim International and now owned by Vasil Kobaidze, who also owns the TV station Pirveli Stereo. He also headed LTD Georgian Business Week, its subsidiary LTD Business Week, and was employed with Holding Georgian Media Union, a company that managed media assets of Bezhuashvili family but ceased to exist in 2013. Patarkalashvili was succeeded in all these companies by the owner of Mze, Zviad Amiridze, in November.
The Bezhuashvili family formerly owned shares in Rustavi 2, Mze and Pirveli Stereo (directly and through Chemexim International). Persons affiliated with David Bezhuashvili companies still own shares in Pirveli Stereo and Mze.
Miron Chigogidze is the director a 30 per cent shareholder in PPC, an import/export company of agricultural goods. In 2008, he served as the deputy head of the Chamber of Control (where he worked under Levan Choladze). Before that, Chigogidze was the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ financial department in 2006 and 2007. There is a record of a Miron Chigogidze who served at the Ministry of Defense before the Rose Revolution, heading the Ministry’s financial-social budgetary department, who at the time he was holding a colonel military rank (TI was unable to verify if this individual was the Miron Chigogidze who is shortlisted for the GNCC position – according to the voter registry, only one voter with this name is registered in Tbilisi).
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