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104 thousand hectares of forest in Racha-Lechkhumi-Svaneti, for 49 years, to a partner of the sanctioned Russian oligarch

Tuesday, 26 April 2022 14:21 hits 3402 times
Davit Khidasheli
News
Davit Khidasheli

In Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti regions, 104,712 hectares of forest were handed over to an investor a month ago by the Georgian government for 49 years to arrange a hunting farm. "Mtis Ambebi" has been trying to find out the identity of the investor since that day, and we managed to do so only after we first appealed to the Minister and then to the court. Earlier, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and its own agency - the National Environment Agency, concealed this information. The forest fund transferred for hunting, together, is much larger than the national parks of Lagodekhi, Vashlovani, Javakheti, Erusheti. The investor turned out to be a partner and friend of Vladimir Yevtushenkov, a Russian oligarch close to Putin and former vice-president of the largest Russian corporation. During his tenure, the company supported the annexation of Crimea. The territory handed over for hunting farms borders the Russian Federation and the occupied Tskhinvali region.

Terms of the license

The special license for hunting was sold for 1 151 832 GEL. Only one bidder participated in the auction and he became the winner - HG Capra Caucasica LLC.

According to the terms of the auction, the investor must invest GEL 5 million within 5 years of receiving the license. Noble deer and Caucasian deer (European bison) must be returned to the region and bred. Tourist infrastructure should be provided in the licensed area for the development of amateur and sport hunting, cognitive, recreational, adventure and ecotourism. In the hunting area, locals should still be able to hunt migratory species permitted by law. To do this, the licensee must allocate special, public lands. One of the necessary conditions is to employ local residents on the farm. The owner is required to ensure that 80% of the hunting staff is local within the 49 years of the license. When using a special hunting license, the holder shall not interfere with the activities of holders of existing, future or future licenses for the use of existing, issued or future issuance of Sochi cone, white flower bulbs, Kochivarda roller coaster mining; Operation and development of energy facilities, implementation of new energy projects and construction of facilities.

The license area also includes the territories included in the "Emerald Network" of Georgia. The Emerald Network serves the conservation of European biodiversity. Its establishment is a necessary requirement of the European Convention for the Protection of Wildlife and Natural Habitats, the Berne Convention, and Georgia acceded to it in 2009. Areas of the Emerald Network are not classic protected areas where the extraction of animal and plant species (including hunting) and other activities are standardized or prohibited altogether by category of protected area.

The National Environment Agency instructed HG Capra Caucasica LLC only after the issuance of the license to submit a report to the agency on the impact of the hunting farm on the Emerald Network before the start of operations.

Refusal to Racha National Park in exchange for hunting?

According to Irakli Macharashvili, Director of the Green Alternative Biodiversity Program, Article 6  of the Habitats Directive (EU nature protection legislation) oblige such assessments before a state license can be issued. Georgia undertook to comply with the requirements of the Directive in 2014, when it signed the Association Agreement with the European Union.

"We do not encounter such a violation only when issuing this particular license. For example, a manganese mining license was issued in Shkmeri, the Abastumani bypass project was approved and then the operator was instructed to prepare an emerald impact report,“ - According to Irakli Macharashvili, such a violation may be the basis for filing a complaint against the Georgian government with the Secretariat of the Bern Convention.

According to him, the main problem is that the interested public does not participate in the decision-making process at all: “According to the current Forest Code, the issuance of a hunting license is done through a simple administrative procedure. Someone makes a statement, the agencies review it inside, after which they make the decision to put it up for auction. Local residents, environmental organizations, do not understand at all that this issue is being discussed. We learn only when a decision has already been made and an auction is being held. We have such a forest code, there is no need to break the law to settle the case."

The National Environment Agency did not provide the coordinates of the boundaries of the hunting farm. The only photo attached to the auction announcement and where the license area is highlighted in green was compared to a google earth map.

As close as possible, we found out that a large part of the 104,712 hectares of forest transferred to HG Capra Caucasica LLC is very close to the Georgian-Russian border and also borders the Russian-occupied Tskhinvali region.

The license area also includes the areas that would have been a protected area if the Racha National Park had been established.

 

 Work on establishing a national park in Racha started 20-25 years ago. Finally, in 2019, the draft law on Racha National Park was submitted to the parliament, but it was blocked.

"Back in 2005, the Georgian government approved a biodiversity strategy and action plan, one of the points of which was the creation of a protected area in the Central Caucasus. This part of the government decree is still unfulfilled. In 2006, President Saakashvili arrived in Racha and promised the population that there would be a national park there next year. In 2019, by the order N2-4 of the Minister of Environment Protection and Agriculture of January 4, the strategy and action plan for the development of the system of protected areas of Georgia were approved. According to the document, Racha National Park should have been established by the end of 2019.

At all times there were various financial groups that did not want to yield Racha to protected areas. If in 1990-2000 Racha was considered to be the main source of logging, now other interests have come to the fore - mining, precious metals and hydropower.

"After all this, a person found more authority and influence than the president, prime minister or minister and was given a hunting license," - Irakli Macharashvili has many questions on this topic: did we give up Racha National Park? Where and how is a private company going to import and breed a noble deer and an extinct European bison in Racha-Lechkhumi-Kvemo Svaneti? (Georgian law prohibits, for example, catching deer in Lagodekhi and releasing them in other regions).

These questions could be answered if the ministry and its agencies were involved in the decision-making process, but the National Environment Agency is not even doing what the law directly requires: the agency did not provide public information on licensing - administrative materials to Green Alternative at all.

"In a few years you will see how these regions, which are forgotten today, will develop. All this will contribute to the development of tourism, ”said Revaz Maisuradze, one of the directors of the licensed company.

The process of returning and reproducing European bison in neighboring Azerbaijan is being organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature and supported by the President of the country.

European bison is an odd-toed ungulate. In the past it was widespread in Europe and the North-West Caucasus. In Georgia it was found from Bzipi gorge to the head of Tergi. The last Caucasian Bisons in these areas were hunted down in 1919-1927, only surviving in some countries' zoos.

HG Capra Caucasica LLC

HG Capra Caucasica LLC is registered on September 9, 2019. The current director of the company is Kakha Amisulashvili. From May to August 2020, one of the directors of the company was the former mayor of Oni Municipality Emzar Sabanadze. Global Victor Georgia LLC, which was registered in Georgia on March 15, 2017, owns 100% of the shares of HG Capra Caucasus LLC. The company has two directors - Kakha Amisulashvili and Revaz Maisuradze, and is wholly owned by Global Victory Investments Limited, based in the United Arab Emirates. On April 26, 2018, a notarized power of attorney issued in Dubai revealed that the owners of Global Victory Investments Limited are Davit Khidasheli and his daughter, Mariam Khidasheli.

 

Khidasheli and his Russian connections

Davit Khidasheli is a Chairman of the Board of Directors at telecommunication equipment manufacturer Greek company INTRACOM S.A. TELECOM SOLUTIONS. INTRACOM sells a variety of radio equipment, including telecom receivers, servers, 4G transmitters and more.

According to the biography published on the INTRACOM website, Davit Khidasheli was born in 1965 in Tbilisi. In 1989 he graduated from the Georgian Polytechnic Institute with a degree in mechanical engineering and took courses at the Moscow University of Technology.

In 1988-1993, Khidasheli worked in Bulgaria as the Executive Director of the Representation of the Pravec Corporation (Computer Technologies) in Russia and the CIS countries. From 1993 to 1998 he was the Chairman of the General Assembly of the International Road and Transport Organization (IRTO) in Switzerland. In 1998-99 he was the Chief Representative of the Castel Group in the CIS countries, since 2000 he has been working in Switzerland and has been a member of the Executive Coordinating Board of the World Planning and Earthquake Risk Reduction Agency (WAPMERR). From 2004 to 2009 he was the Vice President of the Technological University in Moscow. In 2007, Davit Khidasheli joined the largest Russian corporation, SISTEMA, and held various senior positions until 2014 - he was the Executive Vice President, Vice President and Director of Innovations.

According to the INTRACOM TELECOM website, in June 2006, a 51% stake in INTRACOM TELECOM was acquired by the joint-stock company SITRONICS, which was a technology division of the joint-stock financial corporation SISTEMA. SITRONICS transferred a 3% stake in RYDRA TRADING COMPANY in April 2012, leaving a 48% stake in INTRACOM TELECOM. In December 2014, SITRONICS transferred a 48% stake in INTRACOM MIDDLE EAST. This company currently owns 100% of INTRACOM TELECOM shares. SITRONICS is still part of the SISTEMA group.

"SISTEMA" is a large Russian conglomerate. The holding includes a controlling stake in MTS (Russian mobile telecommunications company providing telecommunications, digital and media services in Russia, Armenia and Belarus), MEDS clinic network, Segezha Group timber company, Binnopharm online store and Binnopharm online store 33%.

The company's shares were traded on both the Moscow and London stock exchanges before UK imposed sanctions to its owner and chairman of the board, Vladimir Yevtushenkov. The sanction imposed on Yevtushenkov includes banning him from entering the UK and freezing his property. The sanctions imposed by the UK apply to those who support the secession of the regions of Ukraine with the support of Russia. The number of sanctioned people has increased even more after the barbaric killing of civilians in Ukraine by Russia.

According to the Ukrainian edition of Radio Liberty (published on March 16), Yevtushenkov JSC "Radio Technical and Information Systems" supplies the Russian Defense Ministry's Voronezh stationary radar stations, which are designed to fire ballistic and cruise missiles and other anti-aircraft missiles. In 2021, the company "Condshadt", which is part of the "system", began mass production of military drones. Also, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, with the help of the "system", deployed the entire system of radar stations "Container" near the Russian border, which can detect air targets at long distances.

It is known that Yevtushenkov also took part in a forum on October 26, 2016 in Yalta, annexed by Russia, where he was instructed by Vladimir Putin to build multidisciplinary medical centers in Sevastopol and the Republic of Crimea.

It is noteworthy that according to the document of the annual meeting of SISTEMA shareholders in 2015, the Board of Directors approved a new composition of the company's Board of Directors, which included the leader of anti-Western and violent groups in Georgia, pro-Russian politician Levan Vasadze. His position is Vice President of the Investment Department.

 

"Cartographers' Case" and Khidasheli "Contribution"

Davit Khidasheli is the main figure in the so-called In the Case of Cartographers. A few days before the October 31, 2020 parliamentary elections, the Georgian Prosecutor's Office arrested former members of the Government Commission on Delimitation and Demarcation of the State Border, Iveri Melashvili and Natalia Ilychova.

According to the prosecutor's office, the defendants did not rely on the 1: 200,000 scale topographic map published in 1937-1938 during the border agreement, which threatened to lose the historical territories of Georgia, namely Davit Gareji. To the detriment of the interests, the border section near Davit Gareji was agreed on the top of the Desert Mountain, when Georgia's initial position was to cross the border at the foot of the Desert Mountain, as a result of which almost all historical monuments were within the territory of Georgia. The prosecutor's office launched an investigation into the case on August 17.

According to the criminal case materials, 4 copies of the 1: 200,000 scale map were brought to Georgia in 2020 by businessman Davit Khidasheli from Russia and handed over to the Ministry of Defense. Defense Minister Irakli Gharibashvili appealed to the prosecutor's office and launched an investigation.

Davit Khidasheli said on Rustavi 2 TV that Bidzina Ivanishvili had asked him to find the map and he had applied to the RosReestr for help.

In fact, these maps were obtained by Natalia Ilyichova in the early 2000s and provided to government agencies, but were not used in the border agreement because they were considered by cartographers unsuitable, and most importantly,  Bertubani a significant portion of the Davit Gareji complex would become a part of Azerbaijan.

Irakli Gharibashvili accused the detainees Melashvili and Ilychova of treason, saying that they were just executors: “It is not a case of cartographers, it is a case of treason. Who can imagine that during Saakashvili's rule such an important issue as the demarcation-delimitation of territories with a neighboring country was carried out without the highest political leadership. When a party is accused of treason or transfer of territories to another, third, foreign country, it should be, is and will be grounds for the organization to be disbanded as a political party and all those guilty of committing this anti-national crime before the country and people to be held accountable. To be given and severely punished. "

Melashvili and Ilychova pleaded not guilty. More than 10 non-governmental organizations called on the government to stop manipulating sensitive topics for the population in the run-up to the elections and to study the risks of interference by Russian special services in Georgia's internal affairs, as well as the involvement of Russian-linked individuals in the investigation.

It is noteworthy that the start of the investigation was preceded by a statement made by MP Irma Inashvili, leader of the pro-Russian Georgian Patriots Alliance, at a plenary session of parliament on June 11.

Melashvili and Ilychova were released on bail of 20-20 thousand GEL four months after their pre-trial detention, after the first and second rounds of the parliamentary elections were over and the Georgian Dream won a majority. The criminal case is still pending in court.

In January 2021, Bidzina Ivanishvili, the leader of the Georgian Dream, thanked Davit Khidasheli on the Public Broadcaster:

"I have to thank Davit Khidasheli. I know how he got maps from different countries. It has spent quite a lot of its own capital and besides doing quite a lot for the country. If anyone has a feeling that I have done something special, this man is no less charitable than me, has no less merit before the country. What he has done to the country, I believe, is true heroism. It also saved us from arguing with our neighbor and the shame that a monument to our culture was being dug in the middle of the lava. He did it sincerely, with his mind, his attitude, his resources. In my opinion, he is a true hero and a true patriot. I think I owe a debt to this man. "

 

Khidasheli’s capital in Georgia and unfulfilled obligations

Davit Khidasheli's company, Global Victory Georgia Ltd, bought the 16-hectare Akhtala resort in Gurjaani at an auction in June 2018 for 3,760,000 GEL. Akhtala is the only mud treatment resort in Georgia, where bone-joint, peripheral nervous system, gynecological, dermatological, urological and other diseases are treated. The resort is visited by people from different countries of the world. The licenses issued until 2045 for the extraction of medicinal mud and groundwater are also transferred to the investor.

Global Victory Georgia Ltd was obliged to build a hotel complex with at least 120 rooms in Akhtala resort, with open and closed swimming pools, restaurants, and rehabilitation centers, within no more than 48 months after signing the contract (August 2022). The investor was contracted to plant the yard, create a parking lot for at least 50 cars, put the complex into operation and start operating. Global Victor Georgia Ltd had to invest at least 12 million GEL, and within a month of its operation, at least 50 people would be employed in the same complex for at least 2 years.

Davit Khidasheli's company has not fulfilled any of its obligations, except to demolish two damaged buildings in the resort area, remove the rubble and install several tons of tanks to supply water to the only residential building left on Akhtala.

Last summer, the company, referring to the coronavirus pandemic, applied to the Georgian government and asked for an extension of the deadline for fulfilling the imposed investment obligations, until the spring of 2024. The government complied with the request. Revaz Maisuradze, one of the directors of Global Victor Georgia, told “Mtis Ambebi” that they were in talks with one of the French companies to build and operate the hotel complex, but the pandemic delayed the group's arrival in Georgia. There will be an 8-storey hotel with 150 rooms. We have all the documents ready and we will do everything until the spring of 2024. "

Davit Khidasheli's company HG Capra Caucasica owns another hunting license. 8316 hectares of forest in Sachkhere municipality were transferred in 2020 to arrange a hunting farm. It is bordered on the east by the forest area of ​​the village of Chala, on the west by the village of Tskhomareti, on the north by the municipality of Oni, on the south by the collective forest area of ​​the village of Skhvitori. It is close to the Russian-occupied villages of Khakhieti and Sinaguri.

In March 2022, Davit Khidasheli's company bought the complex colloquially known as “Rike Jugs” (with 14,591 square meters of land) in the center of Tbilisi for ten times less than the initial cost. The object, which the government planned to sell in 2020 for 96 million GEL, was sold at the sixth auction for 10 020 000 GEL. The company paid 687 GEL per square meter of space.

According to the terms of the auction, the buyer is the “Global Victory Trust”. Its commitment is to arrange a museum of wine, digital art and technology, as well as exhibition and conference spaces in the area for 36 months and to spend at least 20 million GEL. The construction of the "Rike Dokes" complex was completed in 2013 and 75 million GEL was spent for its construction. The complex is still not functional.

“Global Victory Trust” is registered on July 8, 2016 in Luxembourg. The managers of the company are Igor Diadchenko, a Russian citizen, and Mark Milo Lub, an Austrian citizen. Global Victory Trust is owned by Global Victory Investments Limited, based in the United Arab Emirates, whose shareholder is Davit Khidasheli's daughter, Mariam Khidasheli.

"Mtis Ambebi" also tried to contact Davit Khidasheli. He did not answer our phone calls and messages.

Authors: Gela Mtivlishvili, Eteri Pangani

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