Police in Georgia have arrested the notorious Zugdidi bank robber, Badri Esebua, after over 27 months on the run.
The Georgian Interior Ministry confirmed on Wednesday morning that they had detained Esebua in the western region of Samegrelo, with some media reports suggesting he had remained in the town of Zugdidi after the robbery.
The Ministry said they had retrieved firearms and ammunition from the place of his detention.
On 21 October 2020, a heavily armed Esebua took 43 hostages at a Bank of Georgia branch in the town of Zugdidi. After hours of negotiations, he fled the following night with a $500,000 ransom. The robbery and Esebua’s successful evasion of police inspired several attempted copycat robberies in Georgia.
The Interior Ministry charged Esebua with terrorism following the incident, and arrested his brother, Bidzina Esebua, for helping him.
The 35-year-old faces up to 15 years in prison.
Two years on the run
In an embarrassment to local law enforcement agencies, Esebua managed to stay at large for over two years and three months.
Repeatedly pressed by the media over his whereabouts, the Interior Minister, Vakhtang Gomelauri, insisted that apprehending him was a ‘matter of honour’.
‘Where is he going to go? If not today, we’ll detain him tomorrow’, Gomelauri stated in December 2020.
In June 2021, contradicting media speculations that he had fled abroad, Gomelauri insisted that the authorities believed Esebua was still in Georgia.
Several opposition groups had criticised the government for their failure to track down Esebua, claiming that it represented an increase in violent crime in Georgia and had encouraged later bank robbery attempts in Georgia.