Georgia: Billionaire Ivanishvili’s Dark Secret
Many Georgians are still having an “It’s alive!” moment with the political awakening of Bidzina Ivanishvili, a reclusive, Forbes-list billionaire from a glowing castle who has declared himself the sworn enemy of President Mikheil Saakashvili. But the country's interior ministry now has taken all the Dracula and Lord of the Ring jokes to a whole new level by suggesting that the businessman is into black magic.
Ivanishvili lives in a bizarre hillside castle, avoids appearing in public and speaks with a strong Russian accent. In a word, he pretty much has all the attributes to qualify for the role of the prince of darkness in a vintage horror flick.
And the government, still flushed by its recent brush with Hollywood, appears to have realized it.
In a statement today, the interior ministry declared that "unusual minerals and printed materials" of an “occult character and used to predict the future” were found on Ivanshvili’s Russian aide, Valery Levin, when he flew into Tbilisi on October 22. Police took the pains to inspect -- and photograph -- the items and assured the public that the minerals do not pose a threat to "human health."
The stash came from Moscow -- the center of all evil, of course. Perhaps for this reason, the ministry did not bother to explain why Levin was questioned and searched?
Some local commentators have diagnosed the Georgian government with paranoia over Ivanishvili after it stripped the billionaire of his Georgian citizenship and impounded cash meant for his Georgia-based bank. But few expected the many accusations against the eccentric businessman to move into the realm of the supernatural.
(Ivanishvili lawyer Shalva Tadumadze told Civil.ge that the magazine and rocks were meant for his client's 14-year-old daughter, an apparent astrology fan, but the detail has since largely vanished in a puff of smoke.)
That said, the implications that the man may be engaged in rituals potentially involving a crystal ball may not come off as preposterous for some, and may even prove a turnoff for many voters in heavily religious Georgia.
Meanwhile, Washington, for its part, just wants to make sure that everybody plays fair and square in next year's parliamentary elections -- that means no black magic, boys.
As the storm clouds continue to gather over Ivanishvili’s mansion, and lightening sounds ominously in the background, we will keep you posted where this strange story takes us next.
Giorgi Lomsadze is a journalist based in Tbilisi, and author of Tamada Tales.
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