Who Acts behind the Swiss Company that will receive millions of GEL from the state budget?
Georgian Finance Minister Nodar Khaduri has taken a decision on introduction of soft drinks electronic labeling regulations. Without due substantiation, the Finance Ministry plans to pay about 6 million GEL a year to Sicpa Swiss company from the state budget. The company is said to be a favorite body of the United National Movement (UNM) party.
The soft drinks electronic labeling regulations project was developed by the previous Authorities. The new government initially suspended the project, then postponed it and now the Finance Ministry is trying to enact this project. Previously, Finance Minister Nodar Khaduri objected to the labeling regulations. He even suspended an enactment of these regulations by recommendation of ex PM Bidzina Ivanishvili, but now Khaduri has changed position and he has proposed the project himself.
Businessmen are blaming the new regulations. They have been vainly demanding for 3 months for meeting with the government officials. Neither the Finance Minister nor the Prime Minister is interested to listen to their arguments. The businessmen complain they have received no answer for 3 months.
Who acts behind Swiss company Sicpa that was hired by the previous Authorities for implementing the electronic labeling project? These questions arose immediately and corruption collusion was also mentioned in this respect.
The former prosecutor general Zurab Adeishvili is named to have lobbied Sicpa company, while his favorite official Jaba Ebanoidze is named to have prepared the electronic labeling project. Ebanoidze and Adeishvili were accused of deliberately leading Cartu Bank to bankruptcy. Ebanoidze was charged with assistance in concealing property through imaginary or pretended bargain, assistance in preparing, selling and using fabricated payment and credit cards and misuse of official duties. Ebanoidze pled guilty. “The accusation is based on several articles, but I acknowledge this accusation to a certain extent and everything will be decided at the trial”. The court sentenced a 30 000 GEL bail to him.
Sicpa partners and trustees are in Georgia. BGI Advisory Service Georgia founder Zaza Bibilashvili defends the Rustavi 2 interests as a defense lawyer. Another Giorgi Kavlashvili, who is a well-known figure for our society, was considered a good executor of special operations. Sicpa Security Georgia’s director Giorgi Jikia was accused of cheats and document forgery.
The Swiss company selection process also raises certain doubts: Sicpa Security Solutions Georgia was founded on April 4, 2008, while the competition terms requested a 5-year experience from applicant companies. Despite these requirements, Sicpa company won the tender on November 10, 2011. The Tax Code norm was violated that the labeling services would be carried out by the body selected by the revenue service under the regulations of the Georgian legislation.
The previous government set a high tax for the electronic labeling – 5.5 EUR for every 1000 bottles. Under these terms, Sicpa would make 200 times more rprofits compared to the real value of the performed job.
Nodar Khaduri has lowered the tariff to 10 GEL per 1000 bottles, excluding VAT. Now Sicpa will receive 100 times more profits from the state budget. But Khaduri has found a way out. The previous government planned to impose tax burden on the business sector, while Khaduri has charged the state budget. Khaduri has decided to assist the Swiss company in earning money at the expense of the state budget. According to the Finance Minister’s decision, the electronic labeling price will be covered by the revenue service.
According to the revenue service information, yearly turnover in the market accounts for about 500 million domestic and imported bottles of soft drinks. As a result, the state budget will have to pay about 6 million GEL to Sicpa a year, including VAT.
The Finance Ministry has submitted no arguments to the society and the business sector to substantiate the need of introducing electronic labeling regulations. The Ministry says they have to calculate expenditures the revenues service will spend on these regulations every year. The Ministry refuses to divulge the mechanisms for calculating the service price. The Ministry cannot also answer the question whether the Georgian market records that volume of unregistered goods that would be worth paying 6 million GEL from the state budget.
The soft drinks electronic labeling project was lobbied by the previous government and is being lobbied by the current government too, but the new Authorities have obliged the state budget to serve the interests of the Swiss company that was selected by the previous Authorities through violation of the competition terms and the Georgian legislation.