A ruling against two Israeli businessmen in a controversial bribery case is again raising questions about the independence of courts in Georgia.
On April 1, the Tbilisi City Court found Ron Fuchs, an Israeli oil and gas trader, and his associate, Ze’ev Frenkiel, guilty of attempted bribery for having allegedly offered $7 million to Deputy Finance Minister Avtandil Kharaidze in an attempt to secure the Georgian government’s payment of a $98 million arbitration settlement to Fuchs and his business partner, Ioannis Kardassopoulos.
The 61-year-old Fuchs, who responded with a laugh when Judge Vazha Pukhashvili read his sentence to a dead-silent courtroom, was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined 500,000 lari (about $293, 238); Frenkiel, 64, received a six-year-and-six-month sentence and a fine of 100,000 lari (about 58,648).
No reason was given for the discrepancies in the sentences. The judge has two weeks to submit his justification for the sentencing.
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Molly Corso is a freelance reporter based in Tbilisi and editor of the American Chamber of Commerce’s Investor.ge magazine.