Tbilisi, Feb 24 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Gigi Ugulava, mayor of Georgian capital Tbilisi, has been charged with embezzlement and money laundering and faces up to 23 years in jail if convicted, the mayor’s lawyer said.
Ugulava, a close ally of President Mikheil Saakashvili, was summoned by the Georgian finance ministry’s investigation service Saturday and charged with “misspending state funds and legalisation of illegal income”, lawyer Gogita Gabaydze said.
The mayor has dismissed the charges as “politically motivated”.
Investigators suspect Ugulava of having fraudulently appropriated a share in the Imedi TV station from Georgian-American businessman Joseph Kay.
Ugulava is accused of having exerted pressure on Kay to sell his share of the TV station, which was once closely linked to the opposition.
According to investigators, the deal was financed by the Tbilisi mayor’s office through a fraudulent scheme.