Computers from the office in which Rustavi 2 found the "troll factory” were taken in as evidence
Employees of the Georgian Interior Ministry have seized computers from an office building located at 12 Rustaveli Avenue as part of an ongoing investigation into a cyber attack against TBC Bank that took place back in July 2018.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs says it is possible it will interrogate Koka Kandiashvili, the former head of the communications department of the prime minister and active supporter of the ruling party.
Journalists say Kandiashvili is the mastermind behind the creation of a “factory of internet trolls”.
“He will definitely be questioned when this becomes necessary,” Deputy Interior Minister Natia Mezvrishvili told reporters.
Cyber attack against TBC Bank
Mamuka Khazaradze, the founder of the bank, says he asked Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia for an update on the investigation. However, no such update was forthcoming.
TV channel Pirveli published Khazaradze’s request for help in which he asks Gakharia to take the investigation of the cyber attack on the bank under his personal supervision.
Khazaradze writes that two months have passed since he contacted the internal ministry, but that there has been no progress in the investigation. In addition, Khazaradze provided the Minister with the data that he managed to obtain after establishing the IP address from which the attack was carried out – Greviti Ltd, 12 Rustaveli Avenue.
On 9 March, a story appeared in the Saturday Courier television programme on Rustavi-2, which stated that the cyber attack on TBC Bank had been planned in an office located on Rustaveli Avenue.
Rustavi-2 reported the office was rented by the former head of the communications department of the prime minister’s office, Koka Kandiashvili. The programme said that it was from there that Kandiashvili ran the troll factory, which targeted the founders of TBC Bank and sent their social media trolls against them.
Koka Kandiashvili denies all accusations against him, and says that the Rustavi-2 report is slanderous: he notes that the office mentioned in the programme belongs to a multimedia company.
Kandiashvili says the multimedia portal is working in test mode, and that the office on Rustaveli opened in 2015. It was first inhabited by the Georgia OK travel agency, then a studio which “worked on several TV shows and projects”.
Kandiashvili also denied that he heads the press service of the Georgian Dream political party.
“I have never had any problems with TBC Bank. For more than 30 years I have been personally acquainted with Mamuka [Khazaradze], Badri [Japaridze], Vakho [Bukhrikidze] and Paata [Gabadze] – [TBC management], so if something were the matter, then I would definitely be in the know,” Kandiashvili writes.
The TBC Bank case
The Georgian prosecutor’s office recently announced an investigation into a ‘strange’ transaction made more than 11 yeas ago, allegedly with the direct participation of Mamuka Khazaradze, who served as the chair of the bank until just recently.
The prosecutor’s office claims the operation contains signs of money laundering to the amount of $17 million.
Later, the National Bank of Georgia joined in the case, demanding that Khazaradze and Japaridze be relieved of their positions.
On 21 February, Mamuka Khazaradze resigned as chairman of the supervisory board of TBC Bank.
TBC Bank is one of the most powerful financial institutions in Georgia, trading on the London Stock Exchange.
The opposition and observers say that there is political motive behind the TBC Bank case, and many name the personal interests of former prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili as a motivating factor.