A secret recording of a conversation between Zaza Okuashvili and Levan Kipiani points to a possible case of corruption
A possible high-level corruption case was recently revealed by a secretly recorded phone conversation, the authenticity of which remains to be proven, between Levan Kipiani, former Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs, and Zaza Okuashvili, founder of Omega Group and member of the Supreme Council of Adjara representing the party Alliance of Patriots.
The conversation is supposedly about a USD 2 million deal between Omega Group and certain persons who would receive a ‘contribution’ of USD 1 million in exchange for convincing the government to restructure the company’s debt. The conversation presumably mentions Ucha Mamatsashvili, cousin of Georgian Dream party leader and former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, who (according to Kipiani) was also part of the deal.
First of all, we believe that having business disputes create problems for media organizations and journalists is unacceptable since this negatively affects their working conditions and the general media environment in Georgia. Therefore, we stand with the journalists of TV company Iberia and are ready to defend their rights.
As for the secret recording, if proven authentic, it will have pointed to a large-scale corruption case in need of a proper response from the investigative authorities.
A full investigation of this case is necessary not only for the purpose of determining the truth but also for the government to demonstrate that it is serious about combating corruption and that perpetrators do not enjoy de facto immunity due to their political influence and connection to the ruling party. An effective investigation is also necessary to prevent business actors from feeling that they can solve state disputes by seeking informal assistance from government representatives or persons connected to them.
Worth noting is the position of the owners of Omega Group, who are also the founders of the TV company Iberia, who have accused the government of attempting to pressure them into conceding Iberia, due to its critical editorial policy.
We call on Zaza Okuashvili, who owns TV company Iberia through Omega Group, to explain whether this conversation is authentic, when and in what circumstances it took place, what exactly is its subject matter, and to name all persons involved in the process or who had requested that Iberia be conceded.
The statement was prepared with the financial support of the Norwegian Ministry of Foriegn Affairs