|Georgia Seizes Ivanishvili Bank’s Millions in Laundering Sting|
|October 19, 2011|
By Helena Bedwell
Georgian police seized “several million dollars and euros” from billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Cartu Bank and detained at least six people on suspicion of money laundering.
Shota Utiashvili, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said by telephone that the money “belonged” to Tbilisi-based Cartu and had been seized from an armored delivery van. He declined to name the detained people, who were released after questioning.
Eka Beselia, a lawyer for Ivanishvili, confirmed that the confiscated money belonged to Cartu. She said the seizure was “illegal” and called on authorities to return the money. Members of Ivanishvili’s security detail were also forced to surrender their weapons, she said in an interview.
Cartu Bank belongs to Ivanishvili, Irakli Garibashvili, a member of the lender’s supervisory board, said in an interview last week. Elza Nabakhteveli, a spokeswoman for Ivanishvili, confirmed his ownership.
Ivanishvili, a Rossiiskiy Kredit Bank board member, was stripped of Georgian citizenship on Oct. 11, four days after he announced plans to create an opposition party to challenge President Mikheil Saakashvili. In May, Ivanishvili accused the president of orchestrating a smear campaign against him by spreading rumors that he was bankrolling the government.
Forbes magazine in March estimated Ivanishvili’s wealth at $5.5 billion, equal to almost half of Georgia’s $11.7 billion economy. Nabakhteveli said in May that the Forbes estimate was accurate and that he held about one-third of his assets in Russia and the remainder in market investments abroad. Ivanishvili lives primarily in his native village, Chorvila.
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