In an audio recording published by the prosecutor's office, it is said that the plotted murder of the billionaire was personally sanctioned by former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili." />

Investigation launched into alleged assassination plot of Georgian billionaire Patarkatsishvili

In an audio recording published by the prosecutor's office, it is said that the plotted murder of the billionaire was personally sanctioned by former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili.

 Georgian oligarch Badri Patarkatsishvili at a rally against Saakashvili’s government outside the parliament building in Tbilisi. Photo taken three months before his death. 2 November 2007. REUTERS / David Mdzinarishvili

The Georgian Prosecutor’s Office claims it has uncovered evidence which points to a plot to murder Georgian billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili, who died 10 years ago in his UK home near London in suspicious circumstances.

In an audio recording published by the prosecutor’s office, it is said that the murder of the billionaire was personally sanctioned by the former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili.

Three former interior ministry officials from Mikhail Saakashvili’s government have been detained for abuse of authority and plotting a murder with aggravating circumstances.

The accusation is based on audio recordings made in 2007, in which the detainees talk about the preparation of Patarkatsishvili’s murder.

The Georgian Prosecutor’s Office released the recordings on 17 October, and said they had been found some 10 years later after his death in December 2016 in the home of one of the detainees.

Billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili was found dead in his home near London in February 2008.

The medical report from the time states that the cause of death was heart failure.

An ardent opponent of the then-authorities and owner of then-opposition TV channel Imedi, his sudden death raised many questions. However, Scotland Yard said it found no reason to suspect foul play.

Despite this, Saakashvili’s opponents believe that the Georgian special services were involved in Patarkatsishvili’s death.

Just a few months before his death, Patarkatsishvili became very active in Georgian politics. In December 2007, the Georgian authorities released an audio recording which pointed to Patarkatsishvili’s intention to seize power. 

In the recording, Patarkatsishvili offers money to a high-ranking official of the internal ministry, Erekle Kodua, to assist him in carrying out a coup d’état and to remove then-minister Vano Merabishvili from power, or ‘do away with him’ completely. 

The conversation allegedly took place in London, in Patarkatsishvili’s home. 

Despite a thorough search, Kodua, who was sent to the oligarch by the Georgian authorities, was able to carry a microphone hidden in his shoes and make a complete audio recording of the two-hour conversation with the oligarch.

Patarkatsishvili, who made his fortune in Russia, was also a friend and business partner of the Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky. However, their relationship later deteriorated.

In one of the recordings, a high-ranking official of the Constitutional Security Department (CST), Georgi Dgebuadze, talks to a member of Patarkatsishvili’s security attachment, trying to involve him in the preparations for the killing of the billionaire. 

During the conversation, Dgebuadze asserts that the then-president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, had personally sanctioned the preparation of the killing of Patarkatsishvili.

The second audio recording, according to the prosecutor’s office, was made in a building belonging to the Interior Ministry of Georgia. According to the prosecutor’s office, this record is supposedly a meeting of high-ranking CST officials, during which they discuss how to obtain information about Patarkatsi’s security and home maintenance personnel.

During the meeting, participants speak openly about plans to “efficiently remove” Patarkatsishvili. Several options are offered, including the use of a poisonous substance that would cause what would look like a natural death.

Moreover, the recording makes it seem that the details of Patarkatsishvili’s assassination were agreed upon with Dato Akhalaia – the then-head of the CST. [ed. Akhalaia is currently not in Georgia as he left the country immediately after the change of government in 2012. A criminal case has been launched against him in Georgia. His voice is not on the audio recordings made public by the prosecutor’s office].

The defendants face from 16 to 20 years in prison.

The opposition, as well as independent experts and lawyers of ex-officials, are confident that the accusation in the sensational case of Patarkatsishvili was made in order to divert public attention from the scandal surrounding the recordings of the conversations with Mirza Subeliani, a former prosecutor who talks about his involvement in torture and kidnapping of witnesses and the falsification of high-profile cases.

More on JAMnews