'Let him be punished as a citizen of Georgia' - president stopped short of taking citizenship away from ex-general prosecutor
Georgian President will not revoke citizenship of ex-prosecutor Partskhaladze
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili refused to revoke the citizenship of former Prosecutor General Otar Partskhaladze, who is under US sanctions for his business activities and cooperation with the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB).
The Justice Ministry initiated the initiative to strip Partskhaladze of his Georgian citizenship after it was discovered that he had obtained Russian citizenship back in 2021 and failed to notify the authorities, although he was obliged to do so.
When the Ministry of Justice announced its intention, the presidential administration immediately reacted and said it would immediately approve the proposal. However, the president’s opinion has now changed.
“Question: why didn’t the president immediately deprive Otar Partskhaladze of Georgian citizenship?
Otar Partskhaladze has been exposed, an investigation has been launched against him on charges of espionage. Proceeding from the interests of the state, the President of Georgia believes that if the former Prosecutor General should be punished, he should be punished precisely as a citizen of Georgia,” the presidential administration said in a statement published on September 22.
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The scandal around former Prosecutor General Otar Partskhaladze has been going on since September 14, when the U.S. State Department reported that Partskhaladze is a representative of the Georgian-Russian oligarchy and worked in the consulting sector of Russian economic management.
The State Department reported that the Russian FSB worked with Otar Partskhaladze to influence Georgian society and politics, for this reason sanctions were imposed against the former Prosecutor General.
After that, the National Bank of Georgia followed the regulations and immediately froze all of Partskhaladze’s accounts. However, a few days later, on September 19, the National Bank amended its regulations and reopened his accounts.
According to the new regulation of the National Bank, the sanctions regime can be applied to a Georgian citizen only if a court in Georgia has convicted her/him. According to the same principle, the sanctions regime will be applied to a legal entity, the share of which is owned by a citizen of Georgia, who has fallen under sanctions.
This change was preceded by a statement by the chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party Irakli Kobakhidze, who called the National Bank’s decision to restrict Partskhaladze’s access to accounts “unconstitutional and violating the principle of presumption of innocence.”
All three vice-presidents and the advisor to the president of the National Bank left their posts in protest against the change in regulations.
President Salome Zurabishvili apologized to the public for being the one who nominated Natia Turnava for the post of the National Bank President and called on her to resign. The President stated that Turnava’s sole decision to restore access to the accounts of former Prosecutor General Otar Partskhaladze, who was under US sanctions, should be recognized as invalid.
In response, acting president of the National Bank of Georgia Natia Turnava said that “nothing threatens Georgia’s financial system.”
According to Georgian media reports, after the restrictions on the use of his accounts and financial activities were lifted, the former prosecutor reissued his assets in Georgia to his son Anzor within 24 hours.
The Georgian edition of Radio Liberty reported that according to its data, Partskhaladze made a total of 12 re-registrations. These include the rights to the company GPEE Consulting, a land plot in the Tbilisi suburb of Tabakhmela and several apartments and commercial spaces in Tbilisi and Bakuriani.
The International Monetary Fund expressed concern over the change in the regulations of the National Bank of Georgia regarding the sub-sanctioned persons.
On September 22, James O’Brien, head of the U.S. State Department’s sanctions coordination office, made a statement on the subject. “We regret the decision of the National Bank of Georgia. Georgia’s banking system has been one of the best achievements of Georgia’s democratic history. And an independent national bank is the cornerstone of a healthy economy in any country,” he said.
O’Brien also warned that individuals and entities who transact with Partskhaladze or others sanctioned for ties to Russia are putting themselves at risk of being sanctioned themselves.