Risky enterprise of investing in Georgia
30 Mar, 2011 00:01
Israeli investor Rony Fuchs is owed $100 million by the Georgian government for pulling out of a deal. But instead of receiving the massive payout in Tbilisi, Fuchs was seized and told he faced corruption charges.
Major global news networks are blazing with hundreds of “Invest in Georgia" ads. Georgia spends millions trying to get the world to know it is on a mission to crush corruption.But it did not go straight for Fuchs. In March 2010, he won a $98 million payout from the Georgian government for a breached agreement on the construction of an oil pipeline. No payment was made; instead, Fuchs was arrested and has spent over six months in jail without bail.“The only motive was to avoid paying $100 million, which they were instructed to pay by and International Arbitration Process, which was conducted by the World Bank,” claimed Yochanan Zangen, Fuch’s close friend.Tbilisi is alleged to have set up a sting – arresting Fuchs on bribery charges after luring him on a visit to Georgia, allegedly to end his 15-year-long dispute.“I was shocked, I didn’t understand what was happening. I thought it would take a few days before it’s over and he would be back, but then I understood that there is a plot behind it,” said Zangen.What Fuchs thought was a trip to Georgia, on the official invitation of the country's prime minister, turned out to be a one-way ticket to prison.“There was in fact a cooperation between four important ministries of 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 Rony Fuchs,” argued Greg Craig, the head lawyer for the jailed businessman.After the businessman was arrested, what could be called a demand for ransom was put on the table.“Fuchs was then informed through diplomatic channels that he would not be released until the arbitration award was waved,” said Craig.A Georgian human rights activist blamed a broken system that is cracked at the top for Fuchs’ predicament.“Saakashvili does not want an independent court system. The Prosecutor’s Office dominates the law and the police are the main power and political pressure instrument in the country,” said Eka Beselia, head of the political movement Solidarity with Illegal Prisoners. This sentiment is echoed by Fuch’s US lawyers."The odds of him succeeding in Georgia are very slim – less than 0.01 percent. So it’s a good warning to businessmen who are thinking of investing in Georgia that they should think twice and they should beware,” said Craig.