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Georgian Academy of Sciences head promises membership to PM in prank call

12 June 2023
Roin Metreveli. Photo: National Academy of Science.

The newly appointed president of Georgia’s National Academy of Sciences has promised to grant full membership of the academy, a position known as ‘academician’, to the Prime Minister after being asked to do so by a journalist posing as one of the PM’s team.

On Sunday, TV station Mtavari aired a phone conversation between journalist Beka Korshia and Roin Metreveli, the 83-year-old former Soviet official who was appointed to head the academy on 7 June.

In the call, which took place on Metreveli’s first day in the job, Korshia introduces himself as Aka Mamatsashvili, an adviser of the Prime Minister’s office. He tells Metreveli that the head of the Government Administration, Revaz Javelidze, asked him to call to ask Metreveli to grant Irakli Gharibashvili full membership of the academy.

He says this would be ‘very useful at the conferences he attends’, claiming that the PM was working on a paper about conservatism.

Metreveli is heard immediately confirming that ‘we can do that’.

‘Consider that this will be possible for Mr Irakli, and I want you to know that the Academy fully supports him, we are ready for anything’, Metreveli is heard saying. 

Korshia instructs Metreveli to keep details of the arrangement secret, something Metreveli says would be difficult, while requesting ‘five minutes’ with the PM to explain some details.

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According to Georgian legislation, full membership of the National Academy of Sciences — the position of academician — can be granted to a Georgian scientist who ‘has contributed to the development of science at an international level and who has a high reputation in the sciences’.

According to his official biography, the PM’s highest academic achievement is a Master’s Degree in International Relations from Tbilisi State University.

Metreveli has not yet commented on the story, however, Korshia has claimed that his grandchildren had ‘called everyone’ in an attempt to prevent the story from airing.

‘I will add here that you cannot scare me with threats’, Korshia wrote in a post on Facebook.

Despite mounting pressure on Metreveli over the scandal, Georgia’s Public Defender, Levan Ioselian, lept to his defence on Monday, attacking the journalist responsible for the story while dismissing any potential wrongdoing on Metreveli’s part.

‘Treating an 83-year-old like this is not the proudest thing you can do, everything else is secondary’, he wrote.

Roin Metreveli was appointed to head the Academy of Sciences on 7 June after serving as vice president of the institution since 2013.

During the Soviet era, Metreveli held several academic posts and senior positions within the Georgian communist apparatus. He was a member of the Supreme Council of the first convocation of the Republic of Georgia. 

In the opening to his story, Mtavari’s Beka Korshia described Metreveli as ‘the most successful briber of the Soviet era’.

‘You wouldn’t be able to enrol in university if you didn’t [give Metreveli money]. Such a man was appointed as the president of the National Academy of Sciences’, Korshia said.

Metreveli also held the position of rector of Tbilisi State University from 1991–2004. According to a 2012 report published by the World Bank, he was forced to step down due to widespread corruption within higher education.

Read in Armenian on CivilNet