Transparency International Georgia investigates property rights violations near the Red Bridge border crossing
On May 14, 2012, we received a phone call from Naira Todria, a Georgian citizen, who told us that construction workers and construction equipment had entered her land without permission and begun building a parking lot there. Todria’s land is located near the Red Bridge border crossing with Azerbaijan. She told us that she had not given permission for the workers or equipment to enter, and was not given advance notice that they would be coming. Transparency International Georgia’s Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre lawyers immediately traveled to the location, about an hour from Tbilisi. (see the attached photo and video materials).
When our lawyers arrived at Todria’s land, they met employees of the Revenue Service, who told us that the purpose of the work was to construct a parking lot to serve a new shopping center which had recently been built next to the border crossing. The Ministry’s employees told us that the owners of the affected properties would receive compensation later. However, after giving this short explanation, the employees avoided any further discussions with our lawyers.
Todria, on whose land the parking lot was being built, co-owns the 66 m2 parcel with another Georgian citizen, Lali Macharashvili. Their land is adjacent to a 33 m2 plot owned by Aza Devidze, who is their business partner. All three citizens’ property rights are properly registered at the Public Registry, their areas specified, and the registration documents referenced to an electronic cadastral map, which precisely determines the location and boundaries of their property. Prior to the construction of the parking lot, these three landowners were using their property for retail purposes. However, now that the parking lot is finished, police officers prevent them from carrying out any sort of activity on their property. Todria and her partners were planning to build a small retail shop on their land and they had drafted construction plans for the project.
The three landowners told us that Kvemo Kartli’s Revenue Service contacted them several times prior to the beginning of construction work, and offered them an alternative parcel located nearby in exchange, explaining that it was necessary to build a parking lot on their land to serve the new shopping center.
Todria, Macharashvili, and Devidze did not accept the offer, but told the Revenue Service that they would give away their property free of charge, if they would be given small area in the new shopping center; they offered to pay rent for the space. However, they failed to reach an agreement with the Revenue Service. After this, the three landowners say they began receiving phone calls and visits from employees of the Revenue Service, Marneuli’s Sakrebulo, and police officers, who threatened to take the land without the three owners’ permission.
Our lawyers contacted representatives of the Georgian Revenue Service, who immediately expressed their willingness to meet us. According to the representatives of the Revenue Service, they have no interest in violating property rights and they had not planned any construction on the land plots of these landowners. They told us that the construction company might have built the parking lot on these privately owned parcels by mistake. Representatives of the Revenue Service promised us that they would investigate the case as soon as possible.
Transparency International Georgia has been actively involved in the process of protecting landowners’ property rights. We are currently conducting further investigation of this incident, and we plan to use all available means to protect the rights of these landowners, including petitioning the courts for redress if necessary.