Former Georgian Defense Minister David Kezerashvili sues BBC
Kezerashvili sues the BBC
Former Minister of Defense of Georgia and founder of the opposition TV company “Formula”, David Kezerashvili, said that he has filed a lawsuit against the BBC. According to him, the accusations made against him in an article linking him to call center fraud are false.
On April 12, the BBC published a journalistic investigation, according to which former Georgian Defense Minister David Kezerashvili may be connected to a global fraudulent network – the so-called call centers – that has earned more than a billion dollars from deceiving Europeans.
This is an international fraudulent network called Milton Group. The BBC has been investigating the financial fraud scheme for more than a year. According to BBC journalists, they identified 152 companies that were part of the network. The scheme is as follows – companies advertise on social networks, promising EU citizens a high return on investment deposits. These amounts were deposited and withdrawn.
Journalists tracked down those behind this network. Five people have been named, four of them have Georgian surnames and are likely Georgian citizens. These are David Todua, Rati Chelidze, Guram Gogeshvili, Iosif Mgeladze. And also Michael Benimini.
The BBC writes that these names appeared in the Panama Papers and are associated with David Kezerashvili.
“The statements made in the article are false. I have nothing to do with Milton Group or fraudulent call centers. A campaign of harassment, threats and persecution by the current Georgian authorities has been unleashed against me. It was very irresponsible on the part of the BBC to air this story, in which there were no grounds for bringing such serious accusations against me,” Kezerashvili said.
According to him, this allegation is being used “as a propaganda tool” to damage his reputation as a founder of critical media and a champion of liberal values in Georgia:
“This fake program has fallen right into the hands of the Georgian regime, which is using the authority of the BBC to threaten my safety and the safety of my family without investigating its role in the fraudulent ‘call centres’. To protect my reputation, I am taking legal action against the BBC.”
- Georgia ex-minister of defense renounces controlling stake in opposition TV channel “Formula”
- Call center case: 24 Georgians arrested in Kazakhstan on fraud charges
What is call center fraud?
The opposition and the authorities have long accused each other of participating in so-called call center fraud. Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili spoke about the guilt of a high-ranking official of the previous government, David Kezerashvili, and the chairman of the largest opposition National Movement party, Levan Khabeishvili, spoke about the head of the State Security Service, Grigol Liluashvili.
Citizens living in different European countries become victims of fraudulent activity of call centers. Call center employees contacted citizens of Germany and other countries using fake phone numbers, gave fictitious names, provided false information about their company and offered to participate in electronic trading in securities – stocks, assets, currencies and cryptocurrencies through fictitious electronic accounts using online platforms.
Operators assured users that they would be able to make substantial profits. After obtaining the consent of the user, the funds allocated for e-commerce were placed in bank accounts controlled by the criminal group.
After that, the money was transferred to the accounts of companies based abroad, from which they, in turn, went to the accounts of their own companies in Georgia for a fictitious purpose, as if in exchange for services rendered.
Under this scheme, criminals laundered illegal proceeds in the amount of 9,490,991 euros, 716,642 dollars and 218,000 British pounds in 2021. Then the prosecutor’s office made an official statement about the disclosure of a transnational crime. According to her, the citizens of Georgia and Israel formed an organized criminal group that acted in collusion, fraudulently seized “millions of euros belonging to German citizens and legalized illegal proceeds.”