Why the U.S. has imposed sanctions on Otar Partskhaladze, who has been untouchable by the Georgian authorities
On September 14, 2023, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Otar Partskhaladze, the former Chief Prosecutor of Georgia designated as a Georgian-Russian oligarch, due to his cooperation with the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB).
According to the documents obtained by Transparency International Georgia, Partskhaladze received the Russian passport on February 24, 2021, and during the two years since receiving citizenship, he has purchased moveable and immoveable property of considerable amount and value in Russia.
Our overview contains information about Otar Partskhaladze, participant in state capture; how he was getting rich; what became the cause of his sanctioning; what ties he has in Russia and Georgia; and what likely penalties would be been imposed on him if he didn’t enjoy immunity from law enforcement agencies.
Who is Otar Partskhaladze
Otar Partskhaladze was the Chief Prosecutor of Georgia from November 2013 to December of the same year. He was compelled to resign from office after the fact of his conviction in Germany was revealed.
Since Partskhaladze left the office, his property has increased to a considerable extent; whereas in 2013 his family owned 2 pieces of real estate, by 2018 this figure had increased to 24.
In 2017, Otar Partskhaladze was accused of beating Lasha Tordia, the former head of the State Audit Office (SAO). According to Tordia, the assault was related to a report of the SAO which dealt with the relations between the City Hall and Partskhaladze’s company. Ultimately, in January 2021, the City Court acquitted the former prosecutor who had been accused of violence. Soon after the incident of beating, Tordia had to leave the country, and in September 2022, the U.S. granted him a political asylum.
In September 2018, the Rustavi 2 TV station made public a telephone recording which presumably contained a conversation between Zaza Okuashvili, the founder of Omega Group, and Levan Kipiani, the former Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs. According to the recording, the former Chief Prosecutor kidnapped the former Minister, locked him up in a cellar, and beat him. However, later Levan Kipiani didn’t confirm the authenticity of the telephone recording.
Otar Partskhaladze also figured in the case of alleged removal of Vano Merabishvili from the prison cell. The judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) states that the Government of Georgia failed to investigate the statement of Vano Merabishvili, according to which he was covertly removed from the prison cell and taken to meet with Otar Partskhaladze, who exerted pressure on him trying to coerce him into testifying against the former President, Mikheil Saakashvili. After this judgment of the ECHR, the Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation under Article 333 of the Criminal Code (exceeding official powers), although the case remains to be investigated to this day.
Otar Partskhaladze has close ties both with the authorities and the founder of the ruling party, Bidzina Ivanishvili. According to Ivanishvili, Otar Partskhaladze is a close friend of his son, Bera Ivanishvili – Bera Ivanishvili is a godfather of Partskhaladze’s grandchild.
Sanctions imposed on Otar Partskhaladze
On September 5, 2022, the National Agency on Corruption Prevention in Ukraine gave a recommendation to impose sanctions on Otar Partskhaladze. According to the recommendation, Otar Partskhaladze is one of the participants in the oligarchic rule and seizure of power in Georgia by Bidzina Ivanishvili, who lobbies the interests of the Russian businessman Vladimir Yevtushenkov in terms of circumventing sanctions imposed against the Russian Federation.
On September 14, 2023, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Otar Partskhaladze, the former Chief Prosecutor of Georgia designated as a Georgian-Russian oligarch, due to his cooperation with the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB).
According to the document that devotes a separate section to Georgia entitled Addressing Russia’s Malign Influence in Georgia, the FSB and its officer, Aleksandr Onishchenko, “have leveraged Partskhaladze to influence Georgian society and politics for the benefit of Russia”. Onishchenko, who has also been subjected to sanctions, helped Partskhaladze obtain a Russian passport and the Russian citizenship. Partskhaladze profited personally as a result of the cooperation. Along with Otar Partskhaladze, the OFAC also imposed sanctions on his two Russia-based consulting companies (Moscow Business Brokerage LLC and International Business Corporation LLC), in which he owns 50% stakes.
The sanctioning implies the following restrictions:
- All property and interests in property owned by the sanctioned persons in the U.S. have been blocked.
- All entities owned – directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more – by the sanctioned persons have been blocked.
- All transactions within the U.S. that involve any property or interests in property of the sanctioned persons are prohibited unless authorized by a license issued by a relevant U.S. agency.
- These prohibitions include the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of the sanctioned persons.
- The sanctioned persons are also prohibited from entering the U.S.
Otar Partskhaladze’s Russian assets
That Otar Partskhaladze has Russian citizenship first became known from the February 2023 investigation of TV Pirveli.
Transparency International Georgia has also obtained documents according to which Partskhaladze received a Russian passport as early as on February 24, 2021.
According to the information at our disposal, during the two years since receiving the Russian citizenship, he has purchased moveable and immoveable property of considerable amount and value in Russia, specifically:
- 2 adjacent land plots located in the upscale settlement of Lipka in the village of Pozdniakovo, Krasnogorsky District, near Moscow with a total area of 1,480 sq. meters (cadastral codes: 50:11:0040111:35 and 50:11:0040111:32) and a summer house under construction situated on it (cadastral code: 50:11:0040111:342). All the three pieces of real estate were registered in Otar Partskhaladze’s name on December 5, 2021;
- In addition, in 2022, he registered 2 expensive vehicles manufactured in 2021 in his name in Russia: Toyota Land Cruiser 150 (registration date: April 7; VIN: JTEBR3FJ10K203253; plate number: О899СМ790) and Toyota Land Cruiser 300 (registration date: December 22; VIN: JTMAU7BJ4N4018413, plate number: Т970ХТ790).
What liability would presumably have been imposed on Partskhaladze under an impartial justice system
Under an independent and impartial justice system, Otar Partskhaladze should have been held responsible in several cases. Granted, the investigations into these cases were launched and continued in various forms, although none of them have been followed by effective legal consequences to this day.
- The case of kidnapping and physical assault on Levan Kipiani
No investigation has been launched into this case. At least two criminal offences are evident in this case, specifically: Article 143 – unlawful imprisonment, which is punishable by imprisonment for a term of two to four years; and Article 181 – extortion, which is punishable by a fine or imprisonment of two to four years.
- The fact of submission of a forged diploma at the time of appointment as the Chief Prosecutor
According to a document published when Otar Partskhaladze was serving as the Chief Prosecutor, Partskhaladze, who was born in 1976, graduated from school at the age of 15 and from university – at the age of 19. In addition, he was admitted to the Open Humanities University of Georgia in 1991 and graduated in 1995 with the qualification of a lawyer. The information published in the media makes it clear that there was no faculty of law at the Open Humanities University of Georgia in 1991 and that it was established on June 2, 1992, on the basis of the consent of the Ministry of Education. Use of a forged document is punishable under Paragraph 1 of Article 362 of the Criminal Code by a fine or imprisonment for up to three years.
- The fact of assault on the then Auditor General
The investigation into this case was launched under Article 126 of the Criminal Code (violence) in which the maximum punishment is imprisonment for up to one year. The violent act against the head of a constitutional body – which was allegedly committed in connection with the activities of this body – should not have been qualified as an ordinary incident of beating or violence. It was important that the qualification of the crime contain signs that are characteristic of a crime against governance, specifically, violence against a representative of the authorities, in connection with his/her official duties. Article 3531 of the Criminal Code implies assault on a police officer, an officer of the Special Penitentiary Service, or other representative of the authorities or a public institution, which is punishable by imprisonment for a term of four to seven years.
- The episode of removal of Vano Merabishvili from prison cell
The investigation into this case was launched under Article 333 of the Criminal Code (exceeding official powers). This offence is punishable by a fine or domestic arrest for a term of six months to two years; imprisonment for up to three years; or deprivation of the right to hold an official position or to carry out a particular activity for up to three years.
- The episode of cooperation with Russian special services
In a situation of independent functioning of law enforcement agencies, a case should be launched into this case at least under Article 319, which implies assistance to a foreign country, foreign organization or an organization controlled by a foreign state in hostile activities. This crime is punishable by imprisonment for a term of seven to fifteen years.
State capture is an extremely grave form of corruption, when a concrete person or group of persons captures state institutions or a concrete sphere and, by doing so, unequivocally interferes with a country’s democratic development. One of the clearest examples of capturing state institutions and profiting as a result of this process is the activities, enrichment and neglect of the requirements of law by Otar Partskhaladze. The failure of law enforcement agencies to punish Otar Partskhaladze and creating of privileged conditions for him emphasize the important role he plays in Bidzina Ivanishvili’s close circle. Without capturing the justice system, the law enforcement agencies’ inaction in relation to a person who has committed alleged crimes of such quantity and gravity would have been impossible.