PM Garibashvili Breaks Silence Over Covert Recordings

During a briefing today, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili broke silence concerning recently-aired covert recordings and said they prove him being “the victim” of massive surveillance by the previous administration. He said the recordings are “a fabrication from 11 years ago,” splicing together series of telephone conversations.

This was the first personal reaction of PM Garibashvili regarding the covertly recorded phone calls, six days after they were aired by TV Pirveli. In the tapes, he is heard praising and encouraging Bera Ivanishvili, son of Georgian Dream founder Bidzina Ivanishvili, who was supposedly tasking Head of the Special State Protection Service (SSPS) Anzor Chubinidze with humiliating and punishing youngsters for insulting online posts.

PM Garibashvili brushed aside any allegations of wrongdoing either by him or SSPS Head Chubinidze, noting that “there can be no talk of crime when there is no victim.” He said the Prosecutor’s Office should direct its efforts toward investigating the eavesdropping and the “fabrication” of the published recordings.

Moreover, PM Garibashvili sought to clarify why Bera Ivanishvili refers to “ministers calling” Garibashvili in the recordings. TV Pirveli as well as some commentators wondered, whether this indicates that the recordings were made while Garibashvili was already holding the public office.

The Georgian Prime Minister pointed out that as the chairperson of Ivanishvili’s charity foundation in 2011, he had “direct communication with the cabinet of Ministers” of President Saakashvili’s administration, the Tbilisi Mayor, as well as Saakashvili’s wife and mother, who were approaching the Cartu Foundation for funding charitable projects.

Gigi Ugulava, who served as Tbilisi Mayor in 2011 and was explicitly mentioned by PM Garibashvili in this context, already responded, saying the relationship between UNM and Ivanishvili’s Cartu had already been broken off at the time, and that Garibashvili’s statement on liaising with the Ministers at the time “was a lie.”

PM Garibashvili also noted, that even if the tapes were made in 2017, as TV Pirveli implied, having resigned as PM in December 2015, he held no government post, and therefore, the argument that he abused public office “is also completely illegitimate.”

Prime Minister pinned the blame for releasing the recordings on ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, who, according to PM Garibashvili, “is attempting to derail the EU-mediated dialogue” between the ruling party and the opposition.

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