|Georgia fines opposition tycoon $1.65 million|
|March 20, 2012|
Georgia on Tuesday fined a billionaire opposition leader $1.65 million (1.25 million euros) for illegally funding his own campaign group in the latest of a series of financial penalties against him.
The Chamber of Control, which monitors political financing, said tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili had breached legal procedures while donating to his Georgian Dream group, which aims to oust President Mikheil Saakashvili.
Two of Ivanishvili's companies were also fined a total of some $2 million (1.5 million euros) last week for illegally giving money to his campaign under legislation which forbids company donations to political organisations.
Rights group Amnesty International expressed concern last week that recent large-scale questioning of Ivanishvili's supporters by the Chamber of Control could be politically-motivated and intimidating.
The audit body has rejected claims of persecution.
Ivanishvili, worth $6.4 billion according to Forbes magazine, was stripped of his passport last year for violating citizenship laws after announcing plans to form a party to defeat Saakashvili's governing team at the 2012 parliamentary polls.
His passport was officially revoked because he took French citizenship after Georgian, but he has appealed for it to be reinstated.
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.
© AFP 2011. All rights reserved.
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