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Former Mtskheta-Mtianeti Governor declares he’s not Guilty, Says he can Prove the Truth

Published: February 4, 2013 | 9:30 am
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Tsezar Chocheli: “I’ve never used my influence in benefit for the companies owned by my brother”

The COMMERCIAL TIMES

On January 26 former governor of Mtskheta-Mtianeti region was released on GEL 200 000 bail.

Investigation Service of Ministry of Finance of Georgia detained former governor of Mtskheta-Mtianeti region on January 24. According to the statement, Chocheli is accused of legalization of illicit income and illegal involvement in entrepreneurial activities.

The investigation says Chocheli as the governor of Mtskheta-Mtianeti region was illegally engaged in New Energy’s activities. More concretely, he was assisting the company in sign contracts regarding accomplish the projects financed by the state budget. In exchange, Chocheli was illegally receiving big amounts of money by money laundering.

In summer 2010, based on Chocheli’s command, Ltd. New Energy brought the inventory of GEL 61 845 for basketball yard from Turkey and installed the inventory in Tbilisi’s Sopel Digomi district at Chocheli’s house yard.

The investigation is conducted according to Georgia’s Criminal Code, chapter 337 and the third part of chapter- 194, which envisions arrest from 9 to 12 years.

Court hearing is expected to be held in March, 2013.

Tsezar Chocheli was elected a chairperson of the assembly of Akhalgori town of Tskhinvali Region in 2002 and was later appointed a head of the administration of the region. In 2002 he was elected a single-mandate MP of Akhalgori region. In 2008 Chocheli was appointed a governor of Mtskheta-Mtianeti region. He resigned on November 24, 2012, after the parliamentary elections.

Tsezar Chocheli says he’s not guilt and the facts mentioned in the statement spread by the The Investigation Service of Ministry of Finance of Georgia, are not correct. The COMMERCIAL TIMES interviewed Tsezar Chocheli regarding the detention reasons and related expectations.

- You claim not to be guilty of what the Investigation Service of Ministry of Finance of Georgia has said in the statement. Do you believe you can prove it?

- I’m confident that I can prove the truth. During the period, which is argued in the statement, personally I with my brother and my friend owned USD 60 million. The entire volume of this capital was invested in Georgia’s economy, in building several factories and no Tetri was spent abroad. If we had other intentions, USD 60 million would be enough to guarantee a comfortable living in any country. But we chose the way of helping Georgian economy develop and took additional credit from banks as well and built factories where 5-6 thousand people are employed today. Accusing me of the mentioned money laundering is ridiculous; I was rich enough to get involved in that minor case.

I’ve never taken money from anybody. Even when I received gifts, after learning the value of the presents, I returned relative money back to the sender. So, why would I get engaged in corrupt deal with Nikoloz Shakarashvili, the owner of New Energy? The information, that I commanded New Energy to transact up to GEL 5 million to Berta, is false. The truth is that Shakarashvili is the owner of Berta too and he was moving money from one of his company to the other. What have I to do with that? I’m not a even a minor shareholder of Berta. As far as I know Berta project value was around GEL 42 million and Shakarashvili owns 20% of the company, so he should have transacted more than GEL 5 million to Berta’s account, maybe GEL 8-9 million. Again, I’d like to highlight that I’m not the owner of Berta, my brother Iago Chocheli owns around 20% of the company.

- Have you contacted Shakarashvili after the investigation has started?

- I’ve not had even a phone conversation with Shakarashvili during the past two years. I cannot say whether Saharashvili is urged to blame me or he does so because he wants to get dry out of certain issues.

I’ve never used my influence in benefit for the companies owned by my brother and this is true for Berta as well. Iago owns 100% shares or control packages at the following companies: Barambo, Mixor, Sleeper Factory.

- Have you had any disagreement with Shakarashvili?

- I do have certain doubts and hope everything will become clear sooner or later. I can assure you that I’ve never had any financial-economic relations with New Energy. I knew Shakarashvili as he was the contractor of Interplast, we used to be friends. However, at some phase he broke the word and behaved vary badly when my brother and Lukhum Kapanadze provided him with bank credit guarantee. I dislike people who do not keep word. That’s why my relations with Shakarashvili were seized in 2010.

- What is your relationship background with New Energy?

- I’ve never had anything common with New Energy. The only linkage could be that at some period New Energy was the client of Interplast, where I had some shares, managed by my brother.

- Who do you think can be interested in ruining your reputation?

- It’s difficult to say. I’m trying to get the picture of what’s really happening. First, there’s a slight chance that this can have something to do with my return from politics to business, beer business. I do not exclude a possibility that some group of people could have concrete issues with my family’s involvement in beer sector.  Time will show the truth.

- What’s your comment on the saying that all the businesses in Mtskheta-Mtianeti were controlled by Chocheli brothers?

- If anybody wants to create an icon of enemy, first thing they remember is Chocheli brothers. In reference to Berta, I can say that the company’s founders are Nikoloz Shakarashvili, Iago Chocheli and Lukhum Kapanadze. Berta and Barambo were founded simultaneously. Iago’s priority was Barambo where he owns 70% shares and not Berta where his shares make 20% (given to him by Lukhum Kapanadze in exchange to financial obligations he owed to my brother). Still, some can’t help saying that everything is owned by Chocheli brothers. I openly say what belongs to us because we do not have anything to hide.

- Is your intention of returning to business final or could we see Tsezar Chocheli back to politics?

- I do not plan to get involved in politics again if there is not a necessity of my personal engagement in political processes for surviving my country. I think I can be a more success in business than in politics. When you love your country there is always a possibility to think politics when people need you there, so I don’t exclude anything. However, retuning to politics is not on my short-term agenda.

 

 

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