Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mafia "Tourism in Adjara" - CNN and Kazaks, etc.

Can of Worms: Weapons and Human Rights in Georgia

Joni Simonshvili

Please find my notes about weapons drugs and politics; about corruption in Batumi and connections with Moscow, Intelligence Services, etc. The so called Kazaks are really Russians - a front (to buy up things cheap), wash money (money laundering), control Georgia, and that Russia and intelligence services  is from where much of the shinning investment for Georgia comes, even what is pumped into economic free zones and fancy hotels. One would think otherwise, however, to watch CNN and its for hire over-the-top-one-sided-reports on the tourism and the business sector.

Here is to get you started, as I share with some earlier groups "stakeholders in the sphere of human rights, and 'you can write this up as an interview, and perhaps ring me up and ask me a few questions as to my sources, and how I know all of this (but I am not going to give out the names of important sources)," as it might get them blacklisted or dead. At the end, write that this is solely the opinion of the source, who the US Embassy in Tbilisi 'says is not to be trusted', and this information must be only framed the perspective of an "un trustworthy source" - American journalist, Jeffrey K. Silverman, who has lived for 18 years in Georgia and the former Soviet Union, and who has worked with the International Crisis Group, ICG, US government, OIG, and other organizations in collecting much of this muckraking information, much of it dates from 2003, and even earlier as background material.

And then come the energy connections, illegal exports of undocumented oil, and to one strategic US friend who cannot afford to live in the neighborhood, as the neighbors can cut off the tap, which is really interesting and much more serious then even what one might expect. However, that is another can of worms to open but that will be coming  soon. I will send more lately, and for a bit of background, keep in mind the activities of Zurab Zhvania, the former Georgian Prime Minister, and his untimely and most convenient death. There has always been speculation behind the scenes that there was a Batumi connection with the murder of Zurab Zhvania, and his efforts to build a government-within-a-government and being 'too friendly' with those in the separatist regions and Moscow, or being too "pragmatic" and too "greedy."

His sorted history is also part of the network of those involved with the Georgian Shipping Company, Barvill, and his alleged percentage, on each ton of scrape metal exported from Georgia over the years (one dollar per ton). In simple terms, this is history and speculation but he killed himself by knowing too many things and wanting to control everything, and this was not in the best interest of US foreign policy and "bigger plans' for Georgia and the region.

There are also many Kazak connections to Georgia, especially with the unrecorded exports of oil from Batumi and Poti, and this is also connected with the Batumi Oil Terminal and key players in political and business circles. The port of Batumi; especially the political network of friends and stakeholders with the Batumi oil terminal was the gateway for the little empire belonging to Aslan Abshadze, and his 'erstwhile' supporters. It is no secret that the real owners of terminal are also the same ones that were involved in the flurry of recent privatization and investment in the "official" post Aslan Abshadze period.

I learned in passing from a Georgian woman who worked for several years with the Georgian shipping company that the relationship between Zaza Gelashvili and Davitadze, [forget first name] the former head of the local intelligence services in the post Rose Revolution period, was very close. The connection of my source here is that a friend of hers was dating his son or is a schoolmate of Davitadze's son. She knows most of the inner circle of Aslan Abshadze, including Tengiz Arshba, Soso Gogitidze (KGB under Aslan); another Gogitidze, Jemal was police chief under Aslan. The deceased wife of Aslan was the brother to the Gogitize's brother, and who now lives in Moscow. However, many of the frontline troops are still in Georgia and have found employment in the new Saakashvili government, and these are the same people tha were beating Saakashvili supporters in 2003 and now working in Georgian security agencies.  How is that possible?

Zaza Gelashvil is also alleged by several sources to be working for Russian intelligence Services, and personally for the Mayor of Moscow, Uri Luzkov. His father is on his personal staff (inner circle). The sacking of him from the top position of mayor may be connected with bigger plans in the political sphere and may even be hooked up to what is going to be happening in Georgia.

I am told that all information on operations in Georgia by the Americans and Turks is being provided directly to Russian FSB and GRU (Military intelligence). Zaza was personally assigned to watch over Levan Varshalomidze (presidential special envoy and the first man in Adjaria) and to make sure that he does not make too many stupid mistakes, to many side deals, did not get too greedy,  and  not to let outsiders, e.g., (non-connected), know too much of what is going on with him and his family's financial interests.

Naturally such things could compromise Russian and well-placed Georgian interests, at the highest level, especially in light of the formation of new political parties, that can too hire the media spin MDs on the level of the US government and the National Party. Much is involved here,  especially financial interests of various Kremlin insiders, including the former first family of Adjara. It seems that most of what is happening in Adjara is being done to support Russian and Turkisk foreign policy in Georgia, and not for the interest of the Georgian people or economic development.

Returning to Zaza Gelashvili, the source says that all information on the Central government and what is going on in Adjara is being provided directly to Moscow. I have used Irakli X, before, and he was the former head of X region Ministry of State Securirty, former KGB, and on the side of Saakashvili in the days prior to the downfall and exit of Aslan.

We knew then, as it is better understood now, so called overthrow was nothing but a carefully staged performance, a media show,  and in the shadows a "deal had been cut' for Aslan to depart but it would be hands'off of his financial investments in Georgia. Naturally there is a direct nexus to the Batumi oil terminal. Then came the privatization process and locals need not apply. Adjara had not privatized property quickly and in mass as was the case with other regions was the case with other regions of Georgia, especially under Kakha Bendukudze. That is why so much was available at one time Adjara was overripe for the picking, and quickly sold off to Turks and Russians, and in many instances these were only go-between and the old clan was footing the bill.

There is a long and established connected with Central Asia with Adjara with drug dealing and oil shipments by rail. That is common knowledge and these connections may deeper than the Batumi port. The connections between Aslan Abshadze, Central Asia and drug for weapons swaps are well-established and the network continues to fully operational. With the increase poppy crop in Afghanistan, there will likely be a greater flow of drugs hitting the international market out via Georgian ports, including processing in Batumi, and the many of the main players are still in place, as were in place during the time of Aslan.

Kazakhstan This background information comes from Central Asia and will provide you insight as to how scared people are of the investment climate and how  it highly possible that Kazaks are being used as fronts for Russian special interests. What is harder is to find someone in Kazakhstan with info and insights. This is a bit of feedback that was received on September 7, 2006, "I just met a guy here, Leo, and I thought could help you. He was writing articles for Almaty Herald not long ago. He told me a few minutes ago that he doesn't work there anymore. He was not clear but I inferred that it is for political reasons. When I asked him if he could help you with info on Kazakh investors in Georgia, he said, "Excuse me, I have a class at 10 and I have to go…" Classical reaction from Eurasians… He was afraid of talking about connections and this subject."

Family Connections and kinks: the father of the new KGB chief works directly for Yuri Luzhkov, Mayor of Mocow, and together with Iosif Ortzonikidze, who is the owner of Medea hotel and the sports stadium, and one of the deputies of the major of Mocow business in Adjara continues as usual. Source explains

"Iosif is something, and that he has at least two hotels and was and continues to be key adviser to Yuri Luzkkov (lives and works in Moscow). Some of his hotels were  where refugees (IDPs) lived and were evacuated in the months following when the properties were privatized. The residents, per room was given 7,000 USD and tossed from the hotels (and that is not enough to buy anything in the Georgian market).

Who owns what?

Only the inner circle knows the real owners of these properties and that is what I have been able to tap this information source to a limited degree.  It is interesting, and I have networked with persons working in local government, city planner, city architect  - he tells that according to acting Georgian legislation, all must be transparent and under  the terms of tenders that a project and the proposed design for properties have to be made up. These plans are even to be posted, which was done in the case of the hotel Intourist and other flogged off property (especially those sold to the Ukrainians), and procedures were followed with most properties with the notable exception of the so-called Kazak purchases. It is clearfrom the various sources that things are being done in two directions:

Russian and personal financial interests

                                                            Real Estate Market

Intourist – Turks run the place under a 10 year contact but this is owned by Aslan and his brother-in-law. I was told that the paperwork is under the name of Murat Turmadidze, a local. Murat is very close with Aslan.

Hotel "Medea" and "Meskheti" is privatized by Mr. Iosef Orjonikidze, vice mayor of Moscow city

Puskkin Street Trade Center – large trade Center, also belongs to Aslan (don't know what is on the paperwork). Aslan has a sense of humor and changed the name to "Moscow Trade Centre"

Tea House – former ministry for State Security or Police, near port, Tengiz Arshba, member of the Russian Duma and owner of a Russian sports team; he controls with arms smuggling and intelligence, has rank of general in Russian FSB.

Interclub "this is the old name" and next to property above, also belongs to Arshba/old police headquarters. This is owned by Tengiz Arshba, close to new government in Adjara; regularly plays tennis with Levan Varshalomidze at the Marina Hotel and Spots complex. They have been seen playing several evenings and this is confirmed by several sources, including a 15-year-old boy who practices with Tengiz.

Aslan's Kindergarten, said by same sources to be owned by Tengiz Arshba – Arshba is main player in Batumi and his brother/relative is tied in with the break away region of Abkhazia. However, this property is also said to belong to the Kazaks.

Marina Hotel and Sports Complex – Arshba, 40 percent; some unknown MP but think it is Jemal Inalishvali, vice speaker of Georgian Parliament and head of Georgian Chamber of Commerce, former head of Porti Port, 30 percent and Levan Varshalomidze. The Georgian Minister of privatization may also have a share or at least financially benefited in all these deals says the source; this history and connections of these players is like a barrel of fishhooks. This facility was basically paid for with drug money.

Universalmag (Universal Trade Centre) – also said to be owned by Kazaks and is being torn down right now, this is also close to the port and located on prime real estate.

Red Fisherman Market and Shipping Company, two properties in very close proximity – Kazaks are claimed to have purchased these lots.

"Mtsvane Kontskhi" (Green cape) is privatized by Mr. Iosef Orjonikidze, vice mayor of Moscow 10 properties in Green Cape Nature Area stayed in one for these properties for two nights (Kazaks). I am currently waiting to get list of these properties from source and some paperwork. However, one staff member told me that they were losing their jobs and this would be the last year since the Kazaks would be coming for the next season and would hire all their own staff fresh.

 I was told by one of the staff member that the purchase price of these 10 hotels was 1 million dollars and this paid for whole nine yards (lock, stock and barrel). It is clear that these properties could have been sold individually for higher prices and some of them were operating and not in the red.

Tsikhisdziri" - is privatized by Tina Kandelaki, TV anchor on Russian television and radio.  She is half Armenia and used to work for the 2nd Georgian TV channels. Don't know if this is her investment In order to show that the Kazaks are not buying up everything some properties have been sold to Ukrainians and some to Turks and with these properties, everything is said to have been transparent and that the plans and proposals for development were submitted with the tenders.  However, this is not the same ocean side real estate. Included in this partial list of properties include:

Properties near the Makhinjauri Railway Station, the partially completed new train station that will not be completed (Ukraine);

HOPA Bazar, not far from the Turkish Border (Ukraine).

Analysis and Commentary

Not even those who are supposed to be in the know as who owns what and the things that are going on in Batumi are sure of anything. The so-called Kazak  investors are becoming to be known as what belongs to the old team that  was  "run-out-of-town" and that the Russians are really the Kazaks and  this also means that the "old team" and the "old money" from the family business in the fiefdom of Adjara. Kazak is a description used for public consumption. It is likely that only those very close to Levan Varshalomidze and the Georgian Minister of Privatization in Tbilisi really understand the full story. It is possible that those in the know involve Saakashvili as well. As previously noted Levan Varshalomidze and president-elect Saakashvili were college mates and studied together in Kiev. Family and friendship connections are strong in Georgia, and even stronger when money is involved. Guarm Varshalomidze, father to Levan, was the prime minister under Aslan; they are alleged to have taken part in stealing money together over the years, like foxes in the hen house.

Levan was also connected but stole some money from Aslan and this act officially put him on the "outs" with Aslan Abshadze but not thrown completely away. However, this standoff for getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar was enough to present him as being close enough to be in bed with the National Party and Saakashvili for political consumption. Aslan Abshadze and those in fact own the properties that that the Kazaks own. Those closest to him, and this includes his Russian and mafia networks of patronage, are also owners and stakeholders in these properties.  It is difficult to comprehend how all this can go on without the Central government knowing and unless this was part of the deal that was cut over Adjara in the first place.

What do you think?

What about the Adjarian regime, who's who in Adjara, clan connections, kinship and family links, possible links with organised crime, drug trafficking and drug weapon swaps. What were the perspectives for political change in the region: and what has been the actual alternatives to Aslan Abashidze, its former leader, all about the Adjarian economy?

 Who owns what? Who pays what? Ties with Russia, and whether or not there was any direct and permanent support for the former regime from the Russian and Georgian government side? How the fall of the regime would impact Russian networks of influence (in politics, business, security forces and special services)?


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