Judge sentenced Nika Gvaramia to 3 years and 6 months in prison
The judge has sentenced Nika Gvaramia to 3 years and 6 months of imprisonment and ordered him to be held in custody in the courtroom.
Judge of Tbilisi City Court Lasha Chkhikvadze announced the decision a few minutes ago.
The prosecution accuses Niki Gvaramia of "abuse of power against the legitimate interests of the TV company and misuse of a large amount of its assets." Along with him are two more accused - Kakha Damenia and Zurab Iashvili.
Public Defender’s Statement on Nika Gvaramia Case
On May 11, 2022, the final hearing was held in connection with the case of Nika Gvaramia, former Director General of Rustavi 2 Broadcasting TV Company Ltd. We would like to remind the public that on November 4, 2019, the Public Defender filed an amicus curiae brief with Tbilisi City Court relating to one of the episodes of the mentioned case. The document is based on key issues identified as a result of studying the case materials and reviews correlation between corporate-legal and criminal liabilities.
In the amicus curiae brief, the Public Defender indicates that the decision made by the manager of the enterprise (changing the terms of the contract, determining the amount of income), which was agreed with the owner of the enterprise, is considered a crime in the given case. According to the indictment, the director could have brought more income to the company but he did not do so, which is a crime.
The amicus curiae brief reviews the practices of the courts of the USA, UK, continental European countries and Georgia, according to which, such an entrepreneurial decision may not lead even to corporate liability, not to mention criminal liability. The decision made by the director might be to make less profit, but it might serve the best interests of the corporation and aim to insure against short-term or long-term risks.
In this case, corporate-legal liability should be ruled out, as the decision made by the director was not: (1) an action that was not agreed with partners (use of dominant position), (2) aimed at personal enrichment through fraud, and (3) risk analysis reasonably indicates that the move was in the best interests of the corporation. Moreover, criminal liability should also be ruled out, as the director has not committed a criminal action in order to make a profit. Clearly, changing the terms of the contract for the basic needs of the corporation does not constitute a crime.
Thus, the managerial decision made during the management of the enterprise cannot be evaluated without taking into account the specifics of the legal status of the director. The Public Defender hopes that this document will help the court fairly assess the case circumstances and make the right decision, taking into account the international experience and practice regarding the elements of director's responsibilities.
U.S. Embassy Statement on the Ruling in the Cases of Gvaramia, Iashvili, and Damenia
Today’s ruling, in the cases of Gvaramia, Iashvili, and Damenia, calls into question Georgia’s commitment to rule of law, and further demonstrates the fundamental importance of having an independent, impartial judiciary in Georgia. From its inception, this case has raised questions, including about the timing and the charges. The disturbing pattern of selective investigations and prosecutions targeting those in opposition to the current government undermines the public’s confidence in the police, prosecution, the courts, and the government itself. Particularly at this time, when Georgia has an unprecedented opportunity to advance its Euro-Atlantic integration, even the perception of politicized prosecution is detrimental. It is the United States’ firm position that a healthy democracy depends on ensuring judicial independence and protecting media freedom. That is why we have repeatedly called for the government to undertake comprehensive reforms to advance these fundamental democratic principles.
STATEMENT OF THE PROSECUTION SERVICE
According to the administration of the Prosecution Service of Georgia, Tbilisi City Court found Nika Gvaramia, former Director General of Rustavi 2 Broadcasting Company LTD, guilty of causing the company a damage of GEL 6,763,509.
In this part, Tbilisi City Court upheld the evidence submitted by the Prosecution but did not agree with the latter’s assessment of the legal classification of the crime. As a result, the act committed by the defendant was classified as abuse of power in a commercial organization – Article 220 instead of Article 182 of the Criminal Code of Georgia. Nika Gvaramia was sentenced to a fine of GEL 50,000 in this episode.
Moreover, Nika Gvaramia was found guilty of abuse of power in a commercial organization under Article 220 of the Criminal Code of Georgia and he was subsequently sentenced to imprisonment for a term of three years and six months. The Court acquitted Nika Gvaramia of all the other charges brought.
In the same manner, Kakhaber Damenia, former Financial Director of Rustavi 2 Broadcasting Company LTD was found guilty of causing the company a damage of GEL 6,763,509. In this case as well, Tbilisi City Court fully upheld the evidence submitted by the Prosecution but did not agree with the latter’s assessment of the legal classification of the crime. As a result, the act committed by the defendant was classified as abuse of power in a commercial organization – Article 220 instead of Article 182 of the Criminal Code of Georgia. Kakhaber Damenia was sentenced to a fine of GEL 50,000.
As regards to Zurab Iashvili, Tbilisi City Court fully acquitted him of the charges brought on him.
We would like to remind the public that Nika Gvaramia had been charged with embezzlement of the property right of Rustavi 2 Broadcasting Company LTD in large amount, commercial bribery, making and using a forged official document, money laundering and abuse of power in a commercial organization.
Kakhaber Damenia had been charged with embezzlement of the property right of Rustavi 2 Broadcasting Company LTD in large amount.
Zurab Iashvili had been charged with commercial bribery and making and using a forged official document.
According to the charge brought, on January 16, 2015, Nika Gvaramia concluded an agreement with Inter Media Plus LTD on behalf of Rustavi 2 Broadcasting Company LTD. Pursuant to the agreement, Rustavi 2 Broadcasting Company LTD conceded its right to display commercial advertisements on its channels to Inter Media Plus LTD.
From January through August 2015, Nika Gvaramia claimed 90-95% of the total income received as a result of selling advertising time of the company from Inter Media Plus LTD, whereas he left the remaining funds with the latter in return for the provision of service.
After Kibar Khalvashi started a court dispute on August 5, 2015 to return the shares of Rustavi 2 Broadcasting Company LTD, Nika Gvaramia and Kakhaber Damenia, acting against Rustavi 2 Broadcasting Company LTD and clearly neglecting its interests, started claiming only the funds necessary for the existence of the TV company every month from Inter Media Plus LTD.
The total revenue to be received by Inter Media Plus LTD in 2015 from selling the advertising time of Rustavi 2 Broadcasting Company LTD added up to GEL 48,014,847, out of which the company only paid GEL 36,467 000 to Rustavi 2 Broadcasting Company LTD. This was less by GEL 6,763,509 compared to the funds received for the same service in 2014. As a consequence, in the second half of 2015, N. Gvaramia and K. Damenia embezzled the right to claim GEL 6,763,509 from Inter Media Plus LTD.
Nika Gvaramia, with the help of Zurab Iashvili, Director of Inter Media Plus LTD, received benefits in the form of real estate from the company in return for the embezzlement of an especially large amount of property right – worth GEL 6,763,509 – for the benefit of Inter Media Plus LTD, which belonged to Rustavi 2 Broadcasting Company LTD. In particular, Gvaramia received two apartments located on Mukhadze Street, Tbilisi with the total area of 238.74 square meters.
After Nika Gvaramia illegally received real estate from Inter Media Plus LTD, he intended to render the criminally-obtained property legal. As a result, several months after the real estate was registered under his name, he sold both apartments to different people in July and September 2017. In this way, he received income of especially large amount – GEL 602,521.8.
Apart from the above-mentioned, in February 2019, N. Gvaramia made an offer to the management of Tegeta Premium Vehicles (Porsche Center) against the lawful interest of Rustavi 2 Broadcasting Company LTD – he would buy an expensive vehicle from them in return for displaying commercial advertisements about their company on Rustavi 2, which he would do through the advertising agency associated with him – Proesco Media LTD.
As agreed, on February 27, 2019, a purchase agreement on Porsche Macan S worth EUR 76,700 was concluded between Tegeta Premium Vehicles LTD and Proesco Media LTD. Based on the agreement, the vehicle was transferred under the factual ownership of Nika Gvaramia and his family, while Proesco Media LTD became the formal owner of the car.
Although Tegeta Premium Vehicles met the requirements of the agreement in good faith and fully paid the advertising price set by the agreement to Proesco Media LTD, under Nika Gvaaramia’s instruction, the latter significantly reduced the amounts to be paid to Rustavi 2, which caused the TV company considerable damage.
Between April and July 2019, the TV company suffered a financial loss of large amount, while Nika Gvaramia and his family gained factual ownership of Porsche Macan S, which cost GEL 232,201.
The Prosecution will appeal today’s court decision before the appellate court within the term established by the law.
Georgia: Statement by the Spokesperson on the appointment of Supreme Court judges
On Wednesday, the Parliament of Georgia appointed four Supreme Court judges for a life-long term. Such appointments, made before the existing shortcomings in the nomination process were addressed, are not in line with the recommendations of the OSCE/Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and of the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission.
These latest appointments contradict the commitment to ambitious judicial reform made by Georgia’s leaders in the political agreement of 19 April this year, and restated on 28 July. This included addressing issues in the Supreme Court nomination process before proceeding with appointments of the judges. These actions risks further undermining judicial independence and public trust in the Georgian justice system.
The European Union reiterates its calls on the Georgian authorities to strengthen the independence, accountability, and quality of the judicial system, including of the High Council of Justice, through a broad, inclusive and cross party reform process. The European Union reminds that, while it remains fully committed to support Georgia’s reforms in line with the EU-Georgia Association Agreement, the EU’s assistance to Georgia remains conditional on progress on key reforms, including on judiciary.
Statement by the EU Spokesperson
U.S. Embassy Statement on Conference of Judges
On October 31, while the country was focused on the municipal elections, the Judiciary selected two new members to the High Council of Justice, replacing the previously unannounced early resignation of two sitting members. The process was neither competitive nor transparent. A single candidate was offered for each vacancy. There was little advance notice of the intent to fill the seats left open by the pre-term resignations. There was no opportunity for consultations or participation by a broad range of qualified candidates, nor for meaningful engagement by relevant interlocutors and civil society. It is disappointing that the Judiciary missed the opportunity to show transparency and failed again to elect its representatives through a competitive and democratic election process.
The United States has long sought to build the capacity of qualified and dedicated judges while calling for reforms that would allow for accountability for judges who undermine the legitimacy of the judicial system. This includes seeking legislative amendments to avoid corporatism and to safeguard the principles of democracy, equality, and adherence to the Rule of Law. Judiciary leaders maintain the judiciary is unfairly criticized for the lack of transparent and merit-based appointments, promotions, and transfers. Yet when the Conference of Judges rushes through important decisions without competition or transparency, it demonstrates unwillingness to embrace reforms that would increase transparency, accountability and public trust in the appointment process, the candidates, and in the High Council of Justice. The many qualified, professional members of the judiciary who are shut out by such a closed system deserve better.
An ethical Judiciary is the backbone of a country’s adherence to Rule of Law. An independent and professional judicial system that is trusted by and serves the people is essential to promoting equitable growth and attracting investment by Georgian and foreign businesses. The United States will continue to advocate for and support reforms that will increase accountability, professionalism, and transparency to help Georgia attain the system of justice its people deserve and that is fundamental for Georgia’s chosen path of Euro-Atlantic integration.