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Cherokee, Gorky, and Mamluk — Georgian Dream candidates accused of being security services assets

13 September 2021
An event presenting Georgian Dream’s Sighnaghi mayoral candidate Malkhaz Begiashvili, who was allegedly recruited as an informant for the security services codenamed ‘Cherokee’.

The Georgian Dream mayoral candidates for 23 municipalities and cities in Georgia were either recruited as informants for law enforcement or security services or are former employees, TV station Mtavari has alleged.

In his programme ‘Mtavari Aktsentebi’ (‘focus areas’) on Sunday, the channel’s director, Nika Gvaramia, presented what he described as secret files leaked from Georgian law enforcement agencies.

The local elections in Georgia planned for 2 October are widely viewed as a referendum on the governing party’s rule following a series of scandals.

Mtavari listed Georgian Dream’s mayoral candidates for the municipalities of Marneuli, Dmanisi, Tsalka, Tetritskaro, Telavi, Kvareli, Sighnaghi, Kareli, Aspindza, Borjomi, Adigeni, Akhalkalaki, Ninotsminda, Mtskheta, Kutaisi, Chiatura, Tskaltubo, Samtredia, Oni, Zugdidi, Khobi, Poti, and Mestia as being under the control of Georgian law enforcement and security agencies. 

Gvaramia named their alleged secret aliases and the functions allegedly ascribed to them by the security services, in most of the cases described as collecting information on state employees and delivering it to the State Security Service (SSG).

The aliases included Sighnaghi mayoral candidate Malkhaz Begiashvili, or ‘Cherokee’, Davit Bakhtadze, alias ‘Gorky’, running in Samtredia, and Gocha Kimadze, or ‘Mamluk’, who is running for mayor of Adigeni.

Davit Bakhtadze was allegedly recruited in 2010 to collect information on Tbilisi mayor Kakha Kaladze, who is currently running for reelection, and his family. Official photo.

According to Mtavari, 15 of the 23 candidates were recruited as informants in 1999–2014, while the others worked for years in law enforcement agencies.

Gvaramia, who occupied top government positions under the United National Movement’s (UNM) rule, said he would ‘not shy away’ from disclosing those recruited during the UNM’s rule from 2003–2012.

Several of the files allegedly contained compromising information about those currently running for office.

The alleged files on Poti mayoral candidate Beka Vacharadze and Tskaltubo candidate Genadi Balanchivadze indicated that they were recruited in 2017 and 2014 after being blackmailed with sex tapes.

The alleged file for Koba Muradashvili, the Georgian Dream candidate for Dmanisi,  contained details of how he ordered that a gun be planted on Giorgi Rurua, an opposition supporter of anti-government protests in 2019. Muradashvili held several senior law enforcement posts.

The alleged file on Muradashvili also indicated that ‘there are scandalous surveillance tapes where he demands to have 15 witnesses of the 21 June night rally dispersal who would confirm any allegations against the opposition leaders’. 

Nika Gvaramia presenting Sunday’s ‘Mtavari Aktsentebi’ programme.

The SSG did not immediately comment on the allegations. 

Since August, the SSG have also been accused of conducting mass surveillance of public figures as well as of pressuring opposition candidates to pull out. 

In a 2018 joint report, Transparency International — Georgia and the Social Justice Centre were highly critical of the SSG’s ‘system for secret surveillance’, mostly through their Operative-Technical Agency. 

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