A man who once supplied intelligence to Russia also has been supplying clothing and gear to the Georgian army, according to a scandalous media revelation.
Convicted Russian spy Petre Devrishadze’s companies have been awarded a total of 4.1 million lari (some $1.7 million) in contracts with defense, security and interior forces in recent years, according to a report by an investigative news service, Studio Monitor.
The defense ministry said by way of explanation that it was not aware it was contracting with a spy for Russia, Georgia’s Public Enemy Number One following the 2008 war between the two countries.
In a statement that was meant to assuage public concerns, but largely accomplished the opposite, Georgia's defense ministry said it had not been investigating the backgrounds of its contractors. “State agencies do not have information about past activities of founders of companies that participate in public bids,” the ministry announced.
The ministry did cancel the latest tender on footwear procurement that had been awarded to Devrishadze’s company.
Despite regarding Russia as the top security threat, Georgia's defense and security agencies appear to have been primarily guided by the bottom line in their procurement policies. Devrishadze said that he had always offered the best deals to the defense ministry and blamed his competitors for thwarting the latest planned contract between his company and the ministry. Under the contract, Dervishadze’s company would have suppled 26,000 pairs of boots to the Georgian army. “I offered a 230,000 lari [about $94,000] discount,” Dervishadze told local media.
Devrishadze confessed to collaborating with GRU, Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, during a 2010 crackdown on a spy network. But he was released on a plea bargain and by 2013 his companies were starting to get contracts from the Georgian armed, security and interior forces.
The companies supplied backpacks, duffle bags, air force uniforms, tents, computer accessories and flashlights to the Georgian defense ministry, Studio Monitor reported. In addition, “Dervishadze’s company supplied video cameras, scooters and boats to the interior ministry, and belts to the State Security Service,” the report said. Other state security agencies bought drones, satellite equipment and video cameras from Dervishadze’s company.
The defense ministry denied that it had purchased computer technologies from Devrishadze’s companies, Margio and Global Trade Group, but it did admit to buying a memory card worth 3,200 lari ($1300) from Margio. In a heated television debate, Deputy Defense Minister Giorgi Butkhuzi said that Georgia's armed forces are kitted out to the highest standards and cooperate closely with the United States.
Giorgi Lomsadze is a journalist based in Tbilisi.