A slew of new witnesses have come forward leveling accusations of abusive behaviour by Georgian rapper Bera Ivanishvili, the son of the billionaire founder of Georgian Dream, Bidzina Ivanishvili.
So far, at least seven, people have come forward with allegations following the publication of explosive tapes of conversations purportedly between Bera and Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili.
The tapes appear to show Gharibashvili, and the head of Georgia’s Special State Protection Service (SSPS), Anzor Chubinidze, agreeing to send police officers to intimidate people who criticised Bera on Facebook.
In a number of audio bits released last Saturday night, rapper Bera, son of Georgian Dream’s founder Bidzina Ivanishvili talks on the phone with his former music producer and his father’s confidant Irakli Gharibashvili, current Prime Minister of Georgia.
In the tapes, Bera and Gharibashvili discuss several planned or already executed acts of revenge against those who offended the musician, including intimidation and physical violence.
On at least one occasion, those talking on the phone discuss terrorising a minor.
[Read more on OC Media: Calls for Georgian PM’s resignation follow scandalous recordings]
So far, the authorities are investigating only the authenticity of the tapes and the illegal recording and disseminating of private conversations, not their content.
Several hours after TV Pirveli aired the tapes on 6 March, government critic Dato Abzianidze identified a man named ‘Amiko’ referred to in one of the clips, as Amiko Janelidze — a close associate of Bera Ivanishvili.
According to Abzianidze, Janelidze publicly threatened to ‘rip his tongue out’ after he ridiculed Bera Ivanishvili on Facebook in June 2019.
Janelidze was also accused by Kristine Martiashvili, a backup singer for Bera in 2011, of ‘getting very angry’ at her for leaving a comment under a post on Bera’s Facebook.
On 7 March, a former waiter, Tato Tsetskhladze, claimed he was personally threatened ‘with serious problems’ by Bera Ivanishvili in the summer of 2016 after criticising him on Facebook for not leaving a tip in the restaurant where he worked.
Also on 7 March, Georgian musician Sandro Sulakvelidze claimed that Bera Ivanishvili sent Georgian rapper Jeronimo, accompanied by four police officers, to his house over a post he made on Facebook in 2013 criticising a project by GDS, a TV channel owned by Bera.
Sulakvelidze said they tried to pressure him to delete the post and apologise publicly.
Sulakvelidze compared Bera to Joffrey Baratheon, a sadistic adolescent king from popular fantasy novels and TV series Game of Thrones.
‘What I heard yesterday was the exact routine of this sick child unleashing those guys on me’, Sulakvelidze wrote on Facebook following the TV Pirveli broadcast.
‘What you’ve heard is, presumably, not an entire picture of what he tasks [others with].’
Tornike Karchkhadze, another Georgian musician and sound producer, recalled being threatened with death by Georgian Dream MP Dimitri Samkharadze and others in 2019 after he cursed Bera. He did not specify if they had acted on Bera’s instructions.
The day after the tapes were aired, Lado Bendianishvili claimed he was the man identified as ‘Lado’ in the tapes and commented on the issue.
In the recordings, Anzor Chubinidze confirms to Bera that he and his men visited ‘Lado’s family’.
While denying he was threatened, Bendianishvili confirmed that three of Bera Ivanishvili’s security guards visited him at home and ‘politely asked’ him to abstain from leaving profanity ridden comments on Facebook for Bera.
The day after the recordings was broadcasted, Mariam Kacharava, a Tbilisi-based graphic designer, alleged that she had personally heard stories from young women who claimed to have been forced to ‘sexually pleasure’ Bera after being brought to him.
‘I vividly recall in their accounts that the girls did not have the right to speak up, and how they were intimidated and threatened’. Kacharava added that the alleged victims could not speak about their stories.
On 9 March, Kutaisi-based rapper Giorgi Gureshidze claimed that he was threatened by phone, and later by another Georgian rapper in person, after he and his friends published a song criticising the then–newly elected Georgian Dream government and Bera Ivanishvili in 2013.
The same day, Gureshidze reuploaded his music video on youtube, stating that he had been forced to remove it three days after publishing it.
‘Talented people are not only found at GDS [Georgian Dream Studios]… This is a country where you want to be happy, [where] a rapper and a Prime Minister are on a CD… This is street music, it’s called hip-hop where daddy’s boys rarely strive’, the artists rapped in the 2012 single, Regress.
‘Apparently, we were not alone in such a situation, and this person turned out to be a maniac in the full sense of this word’, Gureshidze told TV channel Mtavari on 9 March.
On 9 March, another person, lawyer Lasha Shukakidze, told TV channel Mtavari that he was taken by two individuals to the morgue at the Central Republican Hospital in Tbilisi and threatened with a gun after insulting Bera online.
Gharibashvili missing in action
Since the tapes were released, Georgian Dream officials have dismissed them as being ‘fabricated’. While not disputing the identities of those recorded, they have instead claimed that they were edited in a misleading way.
Prime Minister Giorgi Gharibashvili has not appeared publicly or spoken about the allegations against him since the broadcast. The only statement he has made since Saturday was to post on social media about a meeting he held with US Ambassador Kelly Degnan.
Discussed a wide range of topics US Amb Kelly C. Degnan including the 🇺🇸🇬🇪 bilateral cooperation agenda, ongoing political processes, COVID-19 pandemic & the difficult situation in the occupied territories. We highly appreciate the support of 🇺🇸 our top strategic partner. pic.twitter.com/pR3KjZEQv1
— Irakli Garibashvili (@GharibashviliGe) March 9, 2021
On 9 March, the Prosecutor’s Office announced they had opened an investigation for unauthorised recording and dissemination of private conversations. The announcement from the Prosecutor’s Office came after over 60 hours of silence following the publication of the tapes.
The Prosecutor’s Office did not say they were investigating Gharibashvili, Bera, or the chair of SSPS as witnesses, vowing only to examine the authenticity of the recordings.
This frustrated opposition groups including the Lelo and Citizens parties, who demanded the authorities launch an investigation into the possible criminal liability of those discussing violence and threats of violence against others.
Georgian Dream have also responded by accusing the formerly ruling United National Movement party of taping private individuals in 2010–2011, insisting they were made only in those years. However, a number of individuals who have come forward with allegations against Bera have said this took place in years after the Georgian Dream came to power.
On 9 March, anti-government group For Georgia organised a demonstration Come Out for Dignity outside the government offices in Tbilisi to protest what they said was an absence of rule of law in the country.