Two Israeli businessmen, owed US$100 million by the Georgian government, have been found guilty of bribery by a criminal court in Tbilisi.
It comes after a lengthy trial, with both businessmen maintaining that they were the victims of a government set-up.
Ron Fuchs was handed 7.5 years in jail and a million-dollar fine, while his associate Zeev Frenkiel was given 6.5 years and a $200,000 fine.
Shortly before that, an international court ruled that Saakashvili’s government should compensate the two businessmen over a breached contract. The controversial trial has caused tension between Tel Aviv and Tbilisi, with Georgia’s parliament speaker being asked to postpone his visit to Israel.
Ron Fuchs was arrested in the Georgian city of Batumi in October last year. He was there by the personal invitation of the Georgian prime minister to settle the long-running financial dispute Fuchs had with Georgia.
Supporters of the Israeli businessmen say the two are yet more victims of Georgia’s propaganda machine and that the court hearing proceeded with numerous violations.
“After [them] being, for about five months, in prison, the judge simply did not have any chance to release them. In this eventual case it would show that they were in prison illegally. This would show that the law enforcement body of the country conducted an illegal operation against them, therefore the judgment announced is a kind of approval of what the law enforcement body did before that,” says the jailed investor’s lawyer Archil Kbilashvili.
Investor Ron Fuchs went to Georgia in the 1990s, after the civil war in the country when there were no investors in Georgia whatsoever.
Greg Craig, Fuchs’ lawyer, claims the businessman was entrapped by the Georgian government to avoid paying Fuchs the millions he was owed.
“There was, in fact, a cooperation, a collaboration between four important ministries in the government, and probably with the approval of the president – the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of the Interior and the Prime Minister’s office – all of which came together with the plan to entrap Ronnie Fuchs,” he said. “Fuchs was then informed through diplomatic channels that he would not be released until the arbitration award was waived.”