Recent Posts

Friday, March 20, 2009


(image lifted from

As opposition members scramble to define exactly what it is they are all about before the planned April 9th demonstrations, members of the Conservative party have reportedly held a little pow-wow with former defense minister Irakli Okruashvili, a man as trustworthy as the new plastic egg cartons at Populi market. The Tbilisi rumor mill has it that there are even some who would like to see him occupy the egg on the hill.

Ever the philistine, Batano Irakli actually used to be one of the good fellas. At the ripe age of 28, he became deputy Minister of Justice in 2000 and joined Saakashvili's team two years later. Then came the Rose Revolution and Okruashvili's quick rise to notoriety. In 2003 he was appointed governor of Shida Kartli, which includes the region of Gori and South Ossetia. Later that year he became Prosecutor General, then Interior Minister and by 2004 was appointed Defense Minister, where he perfected the technique of being unlikable.

Okruashvili had a knack for making rash comments. At a parade of 4000 Interior Ministry Troops in Gori he reminded the participants that the positions of the enemy were “twenty-nine kilometers away” and said “You are the people who should crush this enemy.” His handlers apparently saw no problem in having a senior administration official talking rubbish.

As defense minister he boasted that he would spend the next New Years's Eve in Tskhinvali and that Russia would lose in a shooting war with Georgia. Perhaps his most famous quote was when he responded to the Russian embargo on Georgian wine by saying “you could export feces there and the Russians would still buy it.” In a weird move, Saakashvili appointed Okruashvili to additionally head a wine export task force, shortly afterwards.

The defense ministry provided Okruashvili with lots of toys to play with, power to exercise and money, lots of money that was difficult to trace. One scandal involved the purchase of broken combat vehicles from Ukraine for ½ a million GEL. But most importantly was the question over the Georgian Army Development Fund, which was set up as an NGO so that it wouldn't be subject to the same public disclosure rules that govern the state budget. Millions of dollars landed in this fund, supposedly by private individuals. Yet the defense ministry never revealed exactly how much they received or what it was spent on.

Then one day in November 2006, Okruashvili had nothing to say, for a while. Saakashvili had demoted his crony to Minister for Economic Development, A week later, he resigned, although Saakashvili insisted Okruashvili was going to America to study. But what he did was start an opposition party (an inherent trend in Georgian politics) and come out to publicly denounce Saakashvili, accusing him of corruption, planning the murder of oligarch Badri Patarkatsishvili and raising questions as to the official version of Zurab Zhvania's death. Unlike most of the noise he made in the old days, this stuff had been carefully ruminated over in advance.

Such accusations were not going to be ignored. It was like instant karma. The cops raided his brand new opposition party HQ and hooked him up without saying why. No Habeas Corpus here. The charges eventually were tax offenses. Most countries audit suspected tax offenders first. In Georgia they arrest them first, a technique Okruashvili honed while Prosecutor General and Interior Minister.

Batano Irakli jumped bail and received political asylum in France. He was sentenced to 11 years in absentia of extortion. In an interview with Reuters in September, Okruashvili said he'd return to Georgia in a year. He made the same promise in 2006, when he vowed to be in Tskhinvali by 2007, or else he'd resign.

Lest anyone forget, Okruashvili led a useless offensive against Tskhinvali in 2004, which not only claimed the lives of some 17 Georgian soldiers and numerous Ossetians, but kept the region in an increasingly heated state of tension for the next four years. While a part of the presidential administration, Okruashvili accomplished nothing legitimate, unless you consider the Kodori operation legal (the UN didn't). When he was Prosecutor General, he implemented the process of legal extortion, where people accused of crimes were “persuaded” to pay “fines” before they had been proven guilty or innocent. Some 45 million GEL was generated in the early days of the practice, but nobody knows exactly where that money went.

Such is the man hoping to make a political comeback. Georgia has enough used car salesmen with political ambitions. Does this country really need another?


Anonymous said...

Good post. One of the things that fascinates me about Georgian politics is the "I'll tell you later" method of disinformation. In September of 2007, when Irakli came out with his charges against Misha, he said, "I'll provide proof soon." But he never did. How many times did we hear, "I'll provide proof soon."

It's no different when the opposition says, "New Elections...and then we'll show you our plans." These people have no credibility whatsover. Their behavior is shameful. And the Georgian journalists don't have the strength to ask the next five questions.

It's been nearly two years. Where is the proof behind Mr. Irakli's accusations? BTW -- I believe that they are based in some truth. But, I want to see the proof. Show the world the proof, Mr. Irakli!!!