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President Meets Rustavi 2 TV Ex-Owner Kibar Khalvashi

President Giorgi Margvelashvili met on Tuesday Kibar Khalvashi, a businessman and a former owner of Rustavi 2 TV.

Khalvashi, who owned Rustavi 2 TV in 2004-2006, told journalists after the meeting with President Margvelashvili that they had “a lengthy conversation”.

“I thanked the President for accepting my request for a meeting. I was able to tell him everything, as well as explained legal aspects of the matter. We asked him to monitor court case because the court is facing a huge pressure from the [United] National Movement,” Khalvashi said, referring to UNM opposition party, which along with Rustavi 2 TV and other government critics, claim that the judge, adjudicating Khalvashi’s lawsuit, is under the control of the government and specifically ex-PM Bidzina Ivanishvili.

“There is an attempt to influence on judge’s verdict and therefore we asked him [President Margvelashvili] to send his representative at court [hearings]. We explained legal aspects of the case, but he told us that he’s not a legal expert and therefore he cannot make any conclusion and that he has to listen to another party [in the dispute] as well,” Khalvashi said.

In his lawsuit Khalvashi claims that he had to sell his shares in Rustavi 2 TV over nine years ago because he was pressured and intimidated by then leadership of the country.

Khalvashi claims that during a meeting with then President Mikheil Saakashvili on November 16, 2006 the latter gave him an “ultimatum to give up the television channel in order to avoid problems for me and my family.”

Respondents also argue that current owners of 91% shares of Rustavi 2 TV – Levan Karamanishvili and Giorgi Karamanishvili, who are believed to be ex-President Saakashvili’s associates, are bona fide holders of the broadcaster.

After Khalvashi sold his shares in Rustavi 2 TV and before Giorgi and Levan Karamanishvili became the shareholders, the ownership of the broadcaster changed for multiple times; for years majority of shares was owned by offshore registered companies with beneficiary owners unknown.

Khalvashi claims that Saakashvili controls the broadcaster through Giorgi and Levan Karamanishvili, who, he says, are nominal shareholders. Rustavi 2 TV lawyers wanted to involve in the ongoing litigation as a third party previous shareholders of the Rustavi 2 from which current owners bought shares, but the motion was rejected by the judge.

The ongoing court hearing into Khalvashi’s lawsuit is expected to resume on October 28.