All governments are corrupt and to many, corruption is endemic to their function. Sadly, Georgia may well fall into this group. However, given Georgia’s strategic position, wars and rumour of wars on all sides, the role seemingly chosen for Georgia may put that nation into a category of its own, neither a simple rogue nation nor a total police state dictatorship, not yet anyway. But Georgia is a clear and present danger to the safety of the region, and with that, the entire world as well.
We begin our examination with Colonel Tristan Tsitelashvili, the famous commander of Georgia’s Avaza Batallion, once famous for its brutality and organised looting. The colonel is also a veteran of the Georgia-Abkhazia and Georgia-Russia wars over the breakaway regions of (Abkhazia and South Ossetia) in 2008.
Tsitelashvili was arrested the same year and convicted of buying, selling and using narcotics. He was sentenced to 7 years, but released with many other political prisoners as part of the general amnesty granted by the new Georgian government in 2012. After his release, I was able to meet, interview and eventually debrief him.
Tsitelashvili remains adamant that the accusations against him were fabricated because the former government wanted to get rid of him. He openly accuses former president Mikheil Saakashvili and his uncle Temur Alasania of making billions from arms trafficking and explains that this contributed to Georgia’s defeat in the 2008 war and subsequent loss of territory. He also claims current defence minister Tina Khidasheli is profiting from the same business.
Tsitelashvili still carries a weapon with him at all times, having a permit to do so, and maintains that this is necessary as because he can back up his serious allegations with documents. As further protection, he asked to be interviewed by Jeffrey Silverman, Georgia Bureau Chief for Veterans Today, so that he could go into more details than previously reported in the Georgian or international media.
Silverman has been able to check everything Tsitelashvili has alleged, and has investigated the same issues himself for many years and paperwork on fake end users going back to 2007. He has also recently been contacted by US Naval Intelligence, ostensibly to help a local US operative resolve, through non-official contact, some corruption issues concerning the Tbilisi biolab and Bechtel National. However NEO editorial staff suspect the US Navy’s real interest is in what Silverman knows about the Georgia’s involvement in providing material support to terrorists via illicit sales of stolen oil, a false flag gas attack in Syria, and proceeds from the sale of weapons.
Here is the interview transcript, as agreed with both parties, Silverman and Tsitelashvili.
Do you know anything about Bel Trading and Consulting?
Bel Trading and Consulting is a Ukrainian company based in the Seychelles. It was one of the companies allegedly tied to Viktor Bout, but we know now that claim was a red herring – it is really tied to the US ratline used to provide weapons to terrorists and others.
Bel is tied into the illegal weapons trade involving Ukraine, Georgia and the United States, and this is where many of the weapons and funds for so-called freedom fighters in Syria come from. The documents used to send them bear the same signatures as other shipments which you investigated years ago. You will find several common names, for instance, Georgian Deputy Defence Minister Mamuka Muriri, and Arkadii Almendiev, who is from Bel Trading and Consulting. Naturally this is John McCain’s boy. Some of this information can be found on US Embassy Cable 09STATE79547
I will provide you with a list of all the freight forwarding companies involved. Some of the information will connect with former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who now wants to be the next US president.
Georgia should realise that what is going on in Ukraine and Syria threatens its national security. We are right in the middle of this mess because we allowed our territory to be used for weapons trafficking by criminal gangs, not for geopolitical reasons.
What do you think about Tina Khidasheli?
She is an unprofessional Minister of Defence. The MOD needs serious reform, but I am not sure anything will change for the better any time soon; certainly not during her tenure. She has not only helped to falsify elections but given bonuses to military staff without justification, and someone should investigate how she is squandering the ministry’s budget.
What about the Georgian army and its weapons stock? Can Georgia defend itself?
We have serious problems in both the army and the defence system. Recruits are not being trained correctly and are not up to their jobs. The weapons supply is inadequate and the borders are not protected. We won’t be able to defend ourselves if there is any problem, but a lot of people want things to be this way, because it makes it easier to cause a mass disturbance.
When Irakli Alasania was defence minister Georgia wanted to buy an air defence system from France. These negotiations were reactivated by Khidasheli. Did she ever buy this system, and if so, did it enter Georgia?
This is a very interesting question. According to my information the system was bought but has never been delivered to Georgia. I can’t say any more at present, but a friend and I are working on it and we will make an announcement soon.
What do you know about the arms trafficking of previous years, and who was involved?
First, I can prove each word of what I will say here, as I have the documents. One of them is signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. I don’t just throw words in the air.
According to my information, the arms trafficking began in 2007. Then-defence minister Davit Kezerahsvili spent 50 million dollars on defence systems from Ukraine, including specialist weapons systems, enough to equip a total of 9 divisions. These sales were mediated by Bel Trading and Ukrsexport. However Georgia received only 2 divisions of weapons, which were not part of the 9 agreed. The weapons delivered were completely different to the ones Georgia thought it had bought. In many cases the items delivered were unusable or so old that things were growing out of them.
How did this become known?
Ukraine was also supposed to send instructors with the weapons, who would train our troops in how to use them. They arrived at Poti from Ilichevsk. The Georgian defence staff gave them a supra, traditional dinners and so on and so forth, but finally the instructors reminded them that they had a job to do. When they saw what had been sent they were shocked, as they were expecting to see the weapons Georgia had bought.
What happened to the weapons purchased with Georgian money?
They went to Syria. Members of our previous government earned a lot of money from them. This was not the only case either.
In 2008, before the war, Georgia bought 40,000 small arms at a cost of $25 million. Only 5,000 of these were given to the army. The other 35,000 were put in storage in Gori, and according to my information they were then shipped to Venezuela. After the war, Georgian state officials said that these arms had been lost or taken by the Russians as trophies of war.
In that same year Georgia had 250 very expensive weapons, including heat seeking rockets, on standby in Kodoti. While the war was going on Vano Merabishvili, the Minister of Internal Affairs, ordered the troops to leave these weapons where they were, in pristine condition.
When you are losing a war you have two choices: you can either destroy your weapons or take them to a safe place so the enemy can’t get them. But Merabishvili had other intentions. The Russians came in helicopters and transported these weapons to Armenia, and once again, Georgia said they had been lost in battle.
So they were sold to Armenia?
No, according to my information these weapons were also sold to Syria. Saakashvili and his uncle earned more than a billion from this deal. There is a terminal in a Georgian airport called Karibche. Temur Alasania has long wanted to take control of this terminal, but someone else owns it. Former Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania always prevented Alasania taking control of it as he knew what kind of plans Alasania had. Zhvania didn’t want Georgia to be used as a weapons transit country, because he was a real Georgian, he was smart and loved his homeland.
According to my information, before his death Zhvania held a meeting with Alasania which some state officials also attended. Zhvania once again expressed his opposition and Alasania responded, “OK, let’s see if I get the terminal.” Zhvania was dead less than a month later. I don’t believe the official version, I think he was murdered, and I know you agree with me.
Which officials, exactly, attended that meeting?
There were several of them, and they are well known to the public, but I can’t name them here. Alasania needed to conduct arms trafficking out of sight and without competition, and this is where the terminals such as those at Batumi and Poti ports came into play.
The head of the Navy at that time was Zurab Iremadze, a very decent person and a patriot. He was also against what Alasania was doing, and soon after he was found poisoned. Judge for yourself how that could have happened.
How do you know he was poisoned? Who gave you this information?
A soldier. I have been investigating his death for years and I know a lot of people. Georgia is a small country, it’s not difficult to find things like this out.
Whenever I say something I have the documents to prove it. This is why I was arrested in 2008. They tortured me in the Moduli building of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for a long time. They gave me a mock execution, pretending they were going to shoot me, and then did the same in the prison. In 2014 I was released as a political prisoner.
Did you try and meet state officials and give them your information after you were released?
Yes of course, I met Kbilashvili the Georgian prosecutor. I told him everything. He called people and told them that I knew a lot about a case they were working on and could help them. But then a lot of Saakashvili’s people, who are still working in different institutions, began terrorising my family and my friends’ families. The people working on the case started acting differently. So now, when we get information we spread it through the media. We ask everyone to help us spread it, and this protects us too.
How did you discover that the “lost” weapons had been sold to Venezuela and Syria?
After the war I got hold of a very interesting Russian document which lays out how many weapons they had seized in Georgia. It does not compare with Georgia’s official statements. For example, Georgia says the Russians took 50 weapons from Gori, but the Russians say they took 10. The numbers given are not even similar.
Former minister Berdzenishvili unconsciously helped reveal this dirty business by writing to US Ambassador John Tefft, asking him to find out why weapons Georgia had bought were not in the country. Tefft asked Hillary Clinton to help, and she even sent FBI agents to Georgia to investigate. They immediately ordered all arms shipments to stop, including those to offshore companies, as they realised Georgia was involved in a massive weapons trafficking operation. However, their actions were more of a cover up than an effort to launch an investigation, and the very fact they met behind closed doors proves nothing was done for the sake of transparency and criminal justice.
As Georgia is an independent country, why did Berdzenishvili ask Tefft to solve this problem and not Georgian officials? Is it possible that the Americans were also involved?
We live in a world where corruption is everywhere, including Georgia and the US. America is divided into two parts, the supporters of Hillary Clinton and the supporters of John McCain. The first is really trying to do something and another is doing nothing. McCain supports Saakashvili and people like him. He earns money by provoking conflict and then making a profit off it. These profits are divided up, and nothing is left behind for all those killed in the process.
Two weeks ago WikiLeaks released the recording of Saakashvili chatting to McCain about Syria, Russia/US confrontation and terrorist attacks. What plans do you think he has?
McCain wants to take advantage of the situation in Syria to rebalance the world the way he wants. When all the attention is on Syria, no one will care about a small country like Georgia. But he has not been able to control the situation.
Saakashvili also thinks Syria will help him. While the world’s full attention is on Syria, the Islamic State and so forth, he has the chance to conduct a revolution and stage a comeback.
According to WikiLeaks, Tatarkhan Batirashvili is working for him. Is Batirashvili a Saakashvili supporter or simply a terrorist?
Tatarkhan Batirashvili, now allegedly dearly departed, was an experienced combatant, trained by the CIA. In 2008 he was arrested and sent to jail. Bacho Akhalaia was the defence minister then. I think there was some sort of confrontation between them, because when Batirashvili was released he went to Turkey and has never come back to Georgia. We now know why, and it has never been a secret, he had work to do there for the US government.
During Saakashvili’s time military trainings were held in Krtsanisi, a US-sponsored training facility, in which a number of young people were trained. Snipers and suicide bombers were also trained, at another base in the Norio woods. There were a lot of Chechens involved, and at that time at least 25 Chechens worked in the Moduli building, which houses Georgian counterintelligence.
What danger would Georgia face from a war between Russia and Turkey?
Turkey has made a huge mistake. They were only thinking about their own interests. Turkey has occupied us already, not with weapons but through the economy. Don’t think I am pro-Russian, but I’d prefer to have good relations with Russia than Turkey.
What kind of game is Ivanishvili playing?
I think Ivanishvili is trying to balance things. If Georgia changes its course, it might face serious problems. Even on Russian military maps South Ossetia and Abkhazia are shown as parts of Georgia. I believe that if we have a good relationship with Russia we will get our territories back. Russia also wants good relations with us, as no country wants NATO troops near its borders. Russia is having a difficult time internationally, almost everybody is against it. It doesn’t need more confrontation, and vice versa. If we become a neutral country everything will be OK.
How can Georgia be neutral when its territories were occupied several years ago?
Nothing is impossible. If we build a friendly and two-way relationship with Russia everything is possible.
Finally, why do you need to carry a weapon?
Many things are surfacing, for instance the history of the US administration’s links with Turkey, gas attacks, Bel Trading and Consulting, and the Grey Wolves, supporters of the Turkish regime, and their links to terrorists here in Georgia, which include moving people and equipment (arms and chemical components) into Turkey. The more things that surface, the more I need to defend myself, as I had documents proving these things long before they were known about.
Ukraine continues to deliver military equipment and ammunition to Georgia
After the end of the Georgian-South Ossetian war in 2008 Ukraine delivered military equipment to Georgia through the company “Ukrcpecekcport”. This included:
In addition, in September Ukraine is planning to send to Georgia: ten T-72 tanks, three BTR-80, twenty PZPK “IGLA-1”, forty PZPK “STRELA” also “RPG-7” rounds and 125 mm. PTYP “KOMBAT”.
In October Ukrcpecekcport intends to provide the Georgian side 12 new tanks T-84 “OPLOT” which are manufactured in the Kharkov factory called “Malisheva”. Georgia has paid 45 million Hryvnia in advance.
The Ukrainian side is also taking part in the delivery of presses with representatives of offshore company “Bel Trading and Consulting,” Antonenko Cergei Bailevich and Kicel Vladimir Aleksandrovich.
According the order of former President Yushchenko Ukrainexport group was to be responsible for delivering the cargo to Georgia. Part of this agreement includes transferring a large part of the proceedsfrom the sale of military equipment and ammunition to family members of President Yushchenko, and for this money to be deposited in foreign bank accounts. Exports of military equipment to Georgia according the agreement between two presidents (Ukrainian and Georgian) was negotiated at low prices. For compensation, former Georgian president Mikheil Sakashvili gave Viktor Yushchenko two “Land Rover” armoured vehicles in 2008 out of appreciation.
We now know why, and what we have found out thus far in this investigation is but the tip of the iceberg. It is especially revealing as to where these arms imports ended up, and how the proceeds from the sale were used in other operations, mainly covert operations. It is no wonder the CIA terrorists are fighting with those supported by the US Department Defence, DoD in Syria.
Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.