Yesterday the information was spread in media that according to the first instance court decision, two companies Philip Morris Georgia and British American Tobacco will have to pay 92 and 270 million USD fine. Defender companies are Tbilisi Tobacco and OGT.
The reason for fines is the claim of defender organizations that two companies mentioned above sell certain brands of cigarettes at the Georgia market with lower prices than its cost.
The court decision creates a doubt about corruption deal between defender companies and high rank officials of the court and is absurd because of following circumstances:
1. If Philip Morris Georgia and British American Tobacco sold their production with dumping prices at the Georgian market for years, it means that some citizens who are tobacco consumers had an opportunity to buy cheaper production. Even if it is truth, according to defender companies, it was beneficial for Georgian citizens and there is no reason these companies should be punished for it.
2.There is no anti-dumping law in Georgia (which is good, because if we have this law, poor population will have to pay higher prices). Therefore, it is not clear, what the decision issued by first instance of court was based on.
3. One of the defender companies OGT owner is the member of Georgian parliament Nato Chkheidze family. OGT holds shares of the company Wilson Trading Corporation and its owner is Zaza Okruashvili, the husband of Nato Chkheidze (Ms. Nato Chkheidze does not have her family members property included in her declaration). It is natural that there is a question if there is family interests expressed in the decision of the court.
4. It is difficult to believe that Georgian court made a decision based on non-existing dumping law without interfering from outside and granted two companies with 362 million GEL fine.
5. Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco are one of the largest tobacco producer companies in the world. This kind of absurd fine for companies will have a negative affect not only on court image but on the investment environment of the country.
We are addressing appellation court:
- Investigate the case very carefully considering all the circumstances
- To do anything to find a solution and make a deal between defenders and two companies.
- Make a decision which will not leave a suspicion of corruption deal.