The book named Who Owned Georgia is a product of the collaboration between Transparency International Georgia and the journalist Paul Rimple. Written in a format of a novel it tells about the businessmen and the companies who owned or own significant shares in important sectors of Georgian economy: broadcasting, telecommunications, advertisement market, oil Import and distribution, pharmaceuticals and mining. It also contains the information about the connections between those companies and the members of the former government and persons related.
The work encompasses the period between that of 2003-2012. During those years there was a lot of discussion taking place among members of Georgian society about the reshuffling of the shares in big companies after the Rose Revolution. In the book the author tried to find out who was behind those companies, which proved troublesome, since most of the companies are registered in offshores. Although the book considers only a relatively limited number of industries, but in contains enough information for the reader to form a general opinion and initiate the discussion about the Post Rose Revolution Tendencies in Georgia.
Broadcasting and Telecommunication Sectors
Broadcasters with national outreach were owned by the former members of the government, the persons related to them or the companies registered in offshores. The companies engaged in broadcasting sector form a complicated web of offshore entities with the representatives close to the former government or associated with them.
Georgian National Communications Commission was exercising a preferential attitude towards those companies whereas for others it was creating artificial barriers.
During the past years there were several big players in this sector. Frequently, they (Outdoor.ge, General Media etc) were connected to the former Minister of Defense Davit Kezerashvili. Notably. there was also the issue of the conflict of interest regarding GNCC Head Irakli Chikovani.
Oil Import and Distribution
The author notes about the ownership of one of the biggest companies Gulf by Davit Kezerashvili. The second biggest company – Wissol, imports one of its brands from Greece and Labels it as Api Super from Italy.
The monopoly in Pharmaceutical sector is significantly reducing the competitiveness between the companies in the sector and makes them dependent on the few businesses with the rights of importing pharmaceuticals in Georgia. This enables companies to maintain high income margins. Interestingly, the same companies made huge donations to the ruling party – United National Movement. The biggest companies in this sector are PSP, Aversi Pharma and GPC.
Additionally, the consumer is frequently misled to be thinking that they are buying the products made in Georgia, whereas those pharmaceuticals are only packaged in Georgia.
The companies engaged in infrastructure development were established in many cases established by the people close to the government. The same companies were the buyers of lands and properties for significantly lower prices than that of their market value.
In some cases they were later reselling those properties and making high income and with that income they were further buying other business entities and accumulating even more wealth. Some of the same companies were later used against Cartu Bank, leaving them without guarantee on loans and thus suffering significant losses. This would not have been possible without the involvement of the Parliament of Georgia, which was actively involved and made amendments to the law.
Tbilisi development Fund and Old City Reconstruction fund have received significant properties from Tbilisi City Hall for management and development and despite that they were accountable under the law to the public, they refused to provide detailed information about their actions regarding the reconstruction and the renovation of the said property.
Regarding the case of Anaklia port and the development of Sairme resort, the author notes that the government’s actions in those cases lacked transparency.
In the mining sector offshore registered companies were frequently involved. For example, Caucasus Mountain Group is a property of the fictional company Pemptilon Holdings Ltd. Pemptilon Holdings Ltd is registered by the company named Cyproman which deals with the registration of such companies.
Among the author’s findings was that in the Georgian mining industry the safety of the workplace is frequently overlooked and the resulting incidents are mostly blamed on miners.
In the process of writing of the book significant changes have taken place in the Georgian political environment. In autumn of 2012 there was a change of government resulting from the parliamentary elections. This was followed by the changes of share ownership in several business structures, mainly in the media sector.
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