Georgia: Former Wartime Defense Minister Davit Kezerashvili Arrested
Less than two weeks before the October 27 Georgian presidential elections, Georgia's defense minister during its 2008 war with Russia, Davit Kezerashvili, has been detained in France and faces likely extradition to Tbilisi on criminal charges.
In a succinct October 15 statement,
Georgia's interior ministry announced that French police detained
Kezerashvili on October 14 at Tbilisi's request; in televised comments, Georgian Ambassador to France Ekaterine Siradze-Delaunay
named southern France as the location of the detention, but did not
The ex-defense minister, a former head of the financial police, was
charged under an umbrella clause of the criminal code that applies to public officials who
accept hefty bribes, organize customs violations that result in sizable
losses for the state, commit large-scale money-laundering or use an
organized group for misappropriation or embezzlement of funds.
Kezerashvili earlier was accused of facilitating the smuggling of
millions of dollars' worth of ethyl spirit for local alcohol production.
He also has been cited as a supposed key player in an alleged scheme to
wrest the pro-opposition private broadcasting company Imedi away from its legal owners and place it under government-friendly control.
Kezerashvili, who was 29 when the Georgian army was routed by Russian
troops, left Georgia after Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili and his
Georgian Dream came to office in October 2012. His whereabouts had been
Tbilisi reportedly had attempted to convince the Israeli government to hand over Kezerashvili, who also holds Israeli citizenship, but without success. He joins ex-Defense Minister Bacho Akahalia among a long line of former senior officials under President Mikheil Saakashvili who now face accusations of abuse of power. The Georgian Dream has emphatically denied in the past that it is prosecuting former officials for political reasons.
During 2008, Kezerashvili, long rumored to have widespread business interests, was often criticized for doing little in terms of leadership of Georgia's military forces. Some even alleged that Tbilisi’s influential Mayor Gigi Ugulava, named with Kezerashvili in the Imedi accusations, was the one giving strategic orders. With Kezerashvili's arrest, look for those stories -- or still others -- to revive soon.