At the beginning of 2008, the Prosecutor General of Georgia announced that Badri Patarkacishvili was charged with conspiracy to topple the state authority, the contrivance of an assassination of a person holding a political office and the preparation of a terrorist act. According to the Prosecutor General’s press statement in the absence of Patarkacishvili in Georgian territory, the summons will be handed in via his family members. Simultaneously, his personal account in the Standartbank has been frozen. (1)
Patarkacishvili, who has been confronted with Prosecutor General’s accusations since 7th November, 2007, has been granted immunity as a candidate running in presidential elections. Prosecutor General suspended the prosecution on 21st December, 2007, and enabled him thus the return to homeland without the risk of being arrested. Up till that time he had avoided prosecution by staying in London. (2) On 16th January, 2008, the municipal court in Tbilisi committed him to preliminary two-month custody. (3)
On 22nd January, 2008, the municipal court in Tbilisi decided on the sequestration of Badri Patarkacishvili’s 100 per cent share in I-Media Joint-Stock Co. 65 per cent of which is the property of JMG Consulting Group Joint-Stock Co. and 35 per cent belong to the open joint-stock company Universal. The I-Media Holding is the sole proprietor of the television channel Imedi. 100 per cent of JMG Consulting Group shares were seized as well. 70 per cent is owned by Georgi Dzhaoshvili, 15 per cent by Maudi Production Association Joint-Stock Co. and 15 per cent by the Pobeda fund which was founded by Badri Patarkacishvili. In addition to this 100 per cent of the Maudi Production Association Joint-Stock Co. were seized as well as 100 per cent of the open joint-stock company Universal. The latter is the possession of publicly unknown persons, namely P. Namshuridze (40 per cent share), V. Totladze (40 per cent share) and E. Kapanadze (20 per cent share). The ground for property sequestration is the fact that Badri Patarkacishvili may abuse the television channel to appeal for a coup d’état. (4)
The events were preceded by the release of recordings which prove the contrivance of a coup d’état in December 2007 according to the Prosecutor General. An interview between Patarkacishvili and the Director of the Special Operational Department of the Interior Ministry of Georgia Erekle Kodua dated 23rd December, 2007,was recorded. In the interview he offers 100 million dollars to the director for the liquidation of the Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili and the foiling of elections by means of provocation. The fact that this interview had really been under way was confirmed also by Patarkacishvili. However, he interpreted it as an attempt to bribe Kodua with the aim of preventing the firing at protesters at planned public rallies which reacted to expected presidential election results. (5)
The television channel Imedi can restore its broadcasting, since it is the holder of a valid broadcasting licence. According to the information released on 25th January the National Telecommunications and Information Administration commenced an administrative procedure leading to the suspension of the validity of Imedi’s broadcasting licence which is supposed to be decided on at its meeting on 15th February, 2008. (6)
On 7th November, 2007, Imedi’s propriety was seized for the first time in the aftermath of a police crackdown and broadcasting termination. The Prosecutor General justified its request claiming that the channel was a threat appealing through its broadcasting to civic disobedience and the toppling of constitutional system. The station was at the same time taken away the broadcasting licence. A month later, the channel’s licence was reinstated and the seizing property abolished. After two weeks of broadcasting, the Imedi company management passed the decision on the interruption of broadcasting. The reason was a mass departure of journalists – following Patarkacishvili’s affair on 26th December, 2006, six journalists left. In January, the chief editor of the information service Giorgi Targamadze handed in his notice. (7)
The Executive Director of Imedi, the representative of Murdoch’s News Corporation, Luis Robertson stated after the sequestration in January 2008 that he hoped that the situation form November 2007 wouldn’t repeat. He said that the company Imedi is owned by joint-stock companies JMG Consulting Group and Universal. In a press statement the Deputy Prosecutor general Nikoloz Gvaramija denied the information spread by Patarkacishvili in the past that News Corporation holds 49 per cent in Imedi. (8) According to the media on 27th January, 2008, a contract between Badri Patarkacishvili and News Corporation was signed in accordance to which the control stock of 51 per cent in the Imedi company would be transferred to News Corporation and 49 per cent to Patarkacishvili’s sisters, namely the Georgian Parliament deputies Nana Patarkacishvili and Mzia Totladze. (9)
By acquiring the control stock in Imedi, News Corporation removed a fundamental obstacle which annoyed Georgian authorities. Imedi plans to restore broadcasting in the fifth week of 2008. Around 80 per cent of journalists are supposed to return to the editorial team which is to be joined by the member of Okruashvili’s political party Movement for United Georgia Natia Lazashvili. (10) The fact remains that the editorial team is supposed to maintain its original character. The Imedi management will retain the same character like it used to have in November 2007 when the executive authority was passed over to Luis Robertson. The confirmation of this condition also on the level of proprietary relations may change the authorities’ attitude to the broadcasting of the television channel Imedi.