"There is an increase in the transit of electronic goods through Georgia to Russia" - US Sanctions Office
Transit of goods through Georgia
Jim O’Brien, head of the US Department of State Sanctions Coordination Office, in an interview with the Georgian edition of Voice of America, announced an increase in the transit of electronic goods through Georgia to Russia. According to him, the owners of businesses that send electronic goods to Russia are “playing roulette”, as all countries must comply with the sanctions.
“We regularly speak publicly. We’d be happy to talk to individual companies if they have potential issues. Our colleagues at the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Commerce and here at the State Department often communicate with business representatives, with business associations. We have educational materials. Along with this, we also note the shortcomings. I have just mentioned one of them. Critical electronics enters Russia through third countries. This may seem like a good business opportunity for someone in these countries, but they should be aware that, as we explain, some of these commodities could end up on the battlefield. So business owners in one of these countries are playing roulette because even if they don’t know where these goods will end up, they may be violating sanctions. So they have to be very careful and avoid such trading,” O’Brien said.
When asked if Georgia is one of the countries that voluntarily or unwittingly support Russia and help it obtain these “highly sensitive” electronics, O’Brien replied:
“Georgia is very diligently following the sanctions. However, we are seeing an increase in the transit of electronic goods through Georgia to Russia. As I mentioned at the beginning, most of this trade was quite legal until the EU and G7 members imposed restrictions on these goods. We expect businesses that have been involved in such trade to understand that it used to work, but now it needs to stop.”
In addition, O’Brien mentioned restrictions on travel to America that were placed on four high-ranking Georgian judges:
“According to our legislation, the introduction of these restrictions is actually mandatory. We see this as a strengthening of Georgia’s European aspirations. This is a standard step. Many well-informed people considered that this measure was timely. I think the facts and circumstances are well known to everyone. And I do not think that a well-informed Georgian official could say that such a measure is not justified.”
It has nothing to do with the “Magnitsky list,” O’Brien says:
“This is a separate legal body, although its right to respond to the same circumstances. It is the law that requires us to impose travel restrictions on officials who engage in this kind of activity.”
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On April 5, the US State Department imposed sanctions on Judges Mikhail Chinchaladze, Levan Murusidze, Irakli Shengelia and Valerian Tsertsvadze, as well as their family members, and banned them from entering the US “due to significant corrupt activities.” They are said to have abused their position. This is stated in a statement by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
Independent experts and human rights activists have been saying for years that Levan Murusidze and Mikhail Chinchaladze lead a so-called “clan” of judges that is blocking reforms needed to strengthen ties between Georgia and the European Union.
Both judges are affiliated with the High Council of Justice, the main supervisory body of the country’s judiciary. It is also believed that they are connected with Bidzina Ivanishvili, the richest man in Georgia, the founder of the Georgian Dream and the informal ruler of the country.
Murusidze was also distinguished by his loyalty to the previous government – the United National Movement party.
A clause on improving the judicial system in Georgia was also included in the Charles Michel agreement of April 19, 2021. Later, the US Ambassador made such statements several times. However, the government continued to appoint life-long judges to the Supreme Court.
On October 31, 2002, the conference of judges elected two new judges to the High Council of Justice: Paata Silagadze and Giorgi Goginashvili. It is believed that they are also members of the so-called judicial “clan”. Both of them have been appointed lifelong judges of the Tbilisi Court of Appeal.