Ex-Deputy Interior Minister Probed for Aiding Saakashvili Border Crossing

The General Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia has announced today it had launched criminal proceedings against UNM-era Deputy Interior Minister Giorgi Lortkipanidze for helping ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili illegally cross Georgia’s state border on the night of September 28-29. 

The prosecution said, Lortkipanidze will face charges for violating Articles 25 and 344 of the Criminal Code, assisting in illegal border crossing, in particular, creating appropriate conditions to cross the border unlawfully, envisaging 3 to 5 years of imprisonment.

The prosecution argued that Lortkipanidze knew about Saakashvili’s intentions and had planned “when, by what means, by what route, and in what manner” the ex-President could covertly return to Georgia from Ukraine, where Saakashvili had resided. 

According to the prosecution, Lortkipanidze met Elguja Tsomaia, one of the four men detained as Saakashvili’s accomplices in the case, as early as April 2021, and “in exchange for some assistance,” persuaded him to transport Mikheil Saakashvili to Georgia in his cargo truck.

The prosecution said Tsomaia arrived in Ukraine on September 20 at the request of Lortkipanidze. On September 26, Saakashvili was driven in Lortkipanidze’s car to Chernomorsk port in Ukraine. He reportedly hid in a “pre-arranged hideout” in the cabin of Tsomaia’s truck, which was loaded onto a ship named “Vilnius,” arriving at the Poti port in Georgia late on September 28.

Giorgi Lortkipanidze is also facing charges in another case. He is accused of exceeding official powers with the use of violence during the break up of an anti-government protest rally in Tbilisi in May 2011 when Lortkipanidze served as a Deputy to then-Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili. The case is currently heard at the Tbilisi City Court.

Lortkipanidze also briefly served as Odesa police chief between June 2015 and November 2016, when Saakashvili held the position of governor of Ukraine’s Odesa region.

Mikheil Saakashvili, who arrived in Georgia on the night of September 28-29, was detained on October 1, on the eve of local elections. The prosecution had accused him of illegal border crossing as well as of misspending some GEL 9 million, exceeding official authority during the November 7, 2007 crackdown on anti-government protests and subsequent events.

He is already convicted in absentia by three instances of Georgian courts and is sentenced to six years in jail, including three years over pardoning police officials implicated in high-profile Sandro Girgvliani murder case and six years over organizing an attack on opposition MP Valeri Gelashvili. Saakashvili denies all charges as politically motivated, regarding himself as a prisoner of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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