Former Georgian PM arrested on corruption charges

By bne IntelliNews May 22, 2013

bne -

Georgia's former Prime Minister Vano Merabishvili was arrested on May 21 and faces up to 12 years in prison if found guilty on several charges of corruption. The move appears part of the ongoing power struggle between current PM Bidzina Ivanishvili and President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Former Labor, Health and Social Security Minister Zurab Chiaberashvili was detained alongside Merabishvili. Both close allies of Saakashvili, the former PM is accused of giving fictitious jobs to several hundred activists from the president's United National Movement party (UNM) during the parliamentary elections in October. He is also accused of misappropriating a luxury villa.

A statement from the West Georgia prosecutor's office confirmed that Merabishvili has been detained, adding: "He is facing up to 12 years in prison for his actions," RIA Novosti reports. The prosecutors say the former PM may face additional charges of involvement in the violent suppression of a protest in Tbilisi in 2011, and that it is also looking at his possible involvement in the infamous 2006 murder of banker Sandro Girgvliani. Meanwhile, Chiaberashvili faces charges of abuse of office.

Several other members of Saakashvili's UNM party have also been arrested, or are under investigation, since Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream coalition won the vote in October. They include Tbilisi mayor Gigi Ugulava, who is also being investigated for corruption and abuse of office.

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