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Ivanishvili-backed Co-Investment Fund to take over Batumi Trump Tower

8 November 2017
Donald Trump and former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in Batumi (Administration of President)

The Georgian Co-Investment Fund, backed by former Georgian prime minister billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili will be involved in building a luxury condominium in Georgia’s port city of Batumi. The Silk Tower will replace Batumi’s previously planned Trump Tower.

During a visit in 2012 before becoming US President, Donald Trump said he would put his name to a local holding company, the Silk Road Group, which planned to build a skyscraper in Batumi.

Construction was supposed to begin in 2013, but never started. In January 2017, after Trump’s election as president, the Trump Organisation announced that they were pulling out of the project. According to Reuters, this was done to avoid a conflict of interest.

Head of the Silk Road Group Giorgi Ramishvili said at a press conference on 7 November ‘after Mr Trump became president, the reality changed. We halted the agreement in a joint decision, but neither I personally, nor my team, ever stopped thinking about this project’.

According to Ramishvili, the project will mark ‘a new stage of Batumi’s development’.

‘We hope that the project will contribute to attracting investments and developing high-income tourism’, he added.

The cost of construction, due to start in 2019, will be approximately $250 million, according to Ramishvili, covering both the Silk Tower and an adjacent yacht club. An additional residential building, a high-class hotel, a casino, an entertainment centre, a multifunctional hall, and a congress centre are also planned to be built as part of the project.

The Co-Investment Fund

Ramishvili says the project has financial backing from the Georgian Co-Investment Fund.

The Co-Investment Fund was presented in 2013 by then–Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, who committed $1 billion of his own money. The fund and its subsidiaries have been controversial for their  backing of the controversial Panorama Tbilisi development.

[Read OC Media’s investigation: Who are Panorama Tbilisi’s mystery backers?]

In 2016, the Co-Investment Fund said ‘the number of projects required the existence of a separate target fund’ and presented Georgia’s Tourism Development Fund, owned by Panama-based Frankston International S A. The Tourism Development Fund owns both Tabori Resorts Ltd and Tbilisi City Ltd, which which was recently awarded state-owned land in Tbilisi for ₾1 ($0.40).

[Read on OC Media: How and why a piece of central Tbilisi was sold for ₾1]

Giorgi Bachiashvili, a shareholder and chair of the Co-Investment Fund, thanked the Silk Road Group for ‘offering partnership’ and said he hopes Batumi will have many more ‘such interesting and attractive projects’.

In 2013, Netgazeti reported that backers of the Co-Investment Fund besides Ivanishvili included the State Oil Fund of the Republic of Azerbaijan, RAK Investment Authority, Batumi Industrial Holding Limited, Calik Holding A.S, Milestone International Holdings Group Limited. However, a complete list of investors or the size of their investments has never been disclosed, and a number of funds connected to the GCF are registered in secretive offshore tax-havens.

According to an investigation by the New Yorker, Silk Road Group was funded by BTA Bank as part of ‘a giant money-laundering scandal’.

Forbes reported in August 2017 that the ‘fake Trump Tower’ would use a design approved by Trump.

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