|Georgia fines opposition tycoon's bank|
|March 12, 2012|
Georgia on Monday fined a bank owned by a billionaire who has vowed to unseat the government nearly $500,000 (380,000 euros) over an alleged scheme to illegally fund his campaign group.
The Chamber of Control political donations watchdog said Cartu Bank, owned by opposition tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili, had transferred cash to the accounts of two bank employees who were then ordered to donate it to the Georgian Dream campaign group.
In a statement, the Chamber of Control described this as a "corrupt scheme" because only individuals, not companies, can legally donate money to political movements or parties.
Ivanishvili, one of Georgia's richest men with a fortune estimated at $6.4 billion (4.9 billion euros) by Forbes magazine, announced last year that he intended to form an opposition party to battle President Mikheil Saakashvili's government in 2012 parliamentary polls.
He was stripped of his Georgian passport a few days later for allegedly violating citizenship laws, and more than $3 million was seized from his bank amid a money-laundering probe, although it was later returned.
Saakashvili's allies have accused the businessman, who made his fortune in Russia, of being a stooge for Georgia's enemies in Moscow, which fought a brief war with Tbilisi in 2008.
The tycoon denies this and says the authorities are targeting him for mounting his political challenge.
© AFP 2011. All rights reserved.
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