The Georgian authorities did not inform British police of tapes they had recovered indicating a 2007 plot to assassinate businessman Badri Patarkatsishvili in Britain, OC Media has learnt.
Georgian business tycoon Arkadi ‘Badri’ Patarkatsishvili, widely hailed as ‘the richest man in Georgia’, died in his home in Surrey, England, in February 2008.
On Wednesday, the Georgian Prosecutor’s Office announced they had charged three former security service officials with plotting to kill Patarkatsishvili in 2007, citing recordings of the officials recovered in which they discuss it.
A fourth person has been arrested.
The opposition has accused the government of using the tapes in order to distract attention from the Subeliani tapes scandal.
[Understand Georgia’s tapes scandals: Analysis | Georgia’s tapes scandals suggest something is rotten at the top of Georgian politics]
In a statement to OC Media, Surrey Police said they were aware through ‘reporting in the media’ of the investigation in Georgia.
‘Surrey Police has not received any contact from Georgian authorities regarding this development, but would welcome the Georgian authorities sharing this information’, a spokesperson said.
The Georgian Prosecutor’s Office told OC Media the assassination plot was not related to Patarkatsishvili’s actual death, which they had already ‘announced solved’.
‘These are two absolutely different cases’, a spokesperson said. ‘This is a case about the preparation of an assassination, where there are four people accused.’
Surrey Police told OC Media that ‘the Force’s Major Crime Investigation Team carried out extensive inquiries and detailed toxicology into his death in February 2008.’
‘An inquest into the death of Mr Patarkatashvilli was conducted in 2010, which resulted in the verdict that he had died of natural causes, and the investigation was concluded at this point.’
The Georgian Prosecutor’s Office told OC Media that ‘of course we will definitely inform [the British authorities…] documents are being prepared and this cooperation will definitely take place’, the spokesperson said.
Patarkatsishvili was living in exile to evade charges of plotting to overthrow the government of the then ruling United National Movement. He had taken part in 2007 mass anti-government demonstrations and participated in the 2008 presidential election, coming third with 7% of the vote.
A Chechen ‘substance’
According to the Prosecutor’s Office, they had discovered the secret audio recordings in 2016, while searching the home of one of the suspects in the 2012 prison rape and torture scandal.
According to Imedi TV, the National Forensic Expertise Bureau has confirmed the tapes’ authenticity.
The Prosecutor’s Office said one of the recordings features a former security service official trying to talk one of Patarkatsishvili’s bodyguards into providing information about the layout of his boss’s house and the cooks.
In their statement on Wednesday, the Prosecutor’s Office said the four former security service officials planned the murder ‘on former President Mikheil Saakashvili’s orders’ because ‘Patarkatsishvili was a political rival and the archenemy of the government’.
The other recording, according to Prosecutor’s Office, is a conversation between former security service officials planning the murder with either gas, poison, or some other substance.
A man identified as Giorgi Dgebuadze by investigators is heard talking about a substance which ‘you smear on the door handle and it will kill a person two hours after touching it’. He also expresses concern about whether they have such a substance at their disposal.
A man identified as Levan Kardava assures them they definitely have it. While another man identified as Revaz Shiukashvili says that ‘Chechens have it’.
‘We can pour it in his shoes or spray it on his suits’, he adds. Later, the man identified as Dgebuadze says they need Patarkatsishvili’s housekeeper.
The statement from the Prosecutor’s Office said it could be concluded from the conversations that the planning of the murder was agreed with then senior security official Data Akhalaia.
Akhalaia and Dgebuadze were both convicted in 2016 of abuse of power and the murder of ‘innocent young people’ who the authorities alleged at the time were planning to free prisoners during the 2006 Rustavi prison riot.
When challenged as to why they were going ahead with the prosecutions now if they found the tapes in 2016, the prosecutor said it took them time to study the records and that they ‘filed charges after the investigation came close to a certain standard’.
The Subeliani tapes
The revelations from the Prosecutor’s Office came as the government is embroiled in scandal over secret recordings published by opposition-leaning TV channel Rustavi 2, implicating senior Georgian Dream officials, including at the Prosecutor’s Office, in serious wrongdoing.
The tapes suggest officials may have abused their power, cracking down on businesses, and engaging in kidnaping and torture, among other things.
In recordings aired on Sunday by Rustavi 2, a man identified as former senior Prosecutor’s Office official Mirza Subeliani talked of engaging in kidnappings and torture on the orders of senior political figures and law enforcement agencies.
Subeliani allegedly mentioned the convictions of several former officials from the United National Movement he helped secure while working at the Prosecutor’s Office, using illegal means.
Subeliani allegedly claimed to have ‘terabytes’ of incriminating recordings which, if made public, would trigger public protests and the downfall of the Georgian Dream government.
On Tuesday, the Prosecutor’s Office made public a tape of another conversation ‘between Mirza Subeliani and [ruling party MP] Viktor Japaridze’, the same two men as in the Sunday tapes.
‘I'll undermine you with lies’, a man identified as Subeliani warns Japaridze.
Critics have pointed to inconsistencies in the new tape and there has been widespread speculation it was staged, as the two men appear to speak in a stilted, and at times strained manner.
Senior members of the UNM claimed the new tapes were staged by the Prosecutor’s Office in order to counter claims of illegality made in the originals.
On Monday, the day before the Prosecutor’s Office released the latest tapes, Rustavi 2 director Nika Gvaramia warned the public that he had received information that the authorities had ‘delivered’ Japaridze to Subeliani’s detention centre, where they staged a new conversation.