Monday, February 26, 2018

"The Financial": Georgia’s European perspective, or Badagoni taken away from owners?!

The Financial
26.02.2018. Since the “Georgian Dream” came into power in 2013, Georgia has significantly improved all social and economic parameters. According to the assessments of the World Economic Forum and other international organizations Georgia has been dynamically improving its competitiveness, protection of property rights and independence of the justice system. According to the Economic Freedom Rating of the Fraser Institute, Georgia is on the 5th place in the world.

Taking this into account, it is all the more surprising to witness the events that have taken place during the past weeks with regard to the leader of the Georgian wine industry – Badagoni, number one among the Georgian wine exporter companies.

On the 7th of February, Investigation Service of Ministry of Finance of Georgia, without any preliminary notification, brutally intruded into company Badagoni’s office. To many, this reminded the infamous practices widely used by the previous government.

It is worth to note that in 2017 Badagoni was recognized as Georgia’s number one industrial and trade brand. According to the National Wine Agency, in 2017 Badagoni exported 6.4 million bottles to 15 countries of the world, while in Georgia there was sold up to 1 mln bottles. Based on this data, Badagoni is on the first place among Georgian wine exporters (read more here). Badagoni is also the largest tax payer in the wine sector and it has more than 600 employees.

It is worth to be mentioned Badagoni’s success at the various wine international wine contests around the world since the company establishment. And there days, in parallel with the Financial policy invasion into Badagoni, on February 21, 2018, at one of the most prestigious contests - Asian Wine Review, Badagoni’s sparkling wine “Badagoni Brut” was awarded with the trophy of the best wine and was listed among the top 12 wines (read more here).

Despite such success, or probably because of it, Badagoni has become a target of unprecedented pursuit by the Georgian Financial Police (read more here). It must be noted that the Minister of Finance of Georgia has an image of a reformer and the agency under his control attacked Badagoni at the time when the Minister was abroad. This may mean one of the two things: either there is certain confrontation between different groups or someone is trying to catch fish in troubled waters before the expected government crisis.

It is interesting to mention that as a result of the Financial Police’s vandalistic attack - intrusion into the company’s office, the Financial Police took all accounting, financial, commercial and other documents that have nothing to do with the particular case. The official reason given by the Financial Police was the statement made by the Russian citizen Vladimer Janjgava, “representative” of Gracoro Trading Limited, Badagoni’s partner company. Mr. Vladimer Janjgava stated that Giorgi Salakaia, current 100% owner of Badagoni’s shares allegedly got his hands on Gracoro Trading Limited’s share in Badagoni. It seems that the methods of ceasing the title to shares in the 21st century in Georgia are known only to Vladimer Janjgava who has a controversial business reputation in his resident country Russia, especially taking into account that Vladimer Janjgava’s partner in Gracoro Trading Limited – Teimuraz Ubilava, who confirms the strange appropriation, absolutely denies any use of violent measures or force by Giorgi Salakaia during the legal transfer of the title to shares.

Even more so, it is strange that the director of the former partner company remembered details of the business transaction that took place in 2015. By the way, before the transfer of the title to shares to Giorgi Salakaia, one million two hundred thousand dollars had been transferred to Mr. Janjgava’s account in February 2018, just before Badagoni was named as Georgia’s leader company and when its tax liability balance became positive for the first time.

In parallel with these strange events which have been recently going on around Badagoni an unprecedentedly dirty and false campaign is carried out in the social networks, parliament and government corridors aimed to humiliate and damage the reputation of Giorgi Salakaia, the Badagoni owner and CEO and a popular Georgian singer Liza Bagrationi who to a great extent helped to create Badagoni’s charming image.

On the background of a negative information campaign, multi-hour interrogation of Badagoni’s ordinary employees takes place at the Financial Police. Naturally all this lead to an adequate response by international organizations. Deputy head of delegation of the European Union to Georgia Mr. Carlo Natale expressed concern regarding the events going on around Badagoni, while in its official letter the European Commission stated that it is closely monitoring the development of Badagoni case.

Taking all this into account there is an evident question – why the Georgian Government is not using the civil court for reviewing the dispute between former partners and for whom it is worth to damage Georgia’s international reputation in return for Badagoni?!

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