Jan. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Georgia’s Cartu Group said customs officials are intentionally damaging its shipments because billionaire owner Bidzina Ivanishvili began a public movement aimed at challenging President Mikheil Saakashvili’s party.
Shipments of equipment for Cartu’s charitable and construction projects are “stopped, thoroughly checked and deliberately damaged at customs terminals only because Ivanishvili announced his political plans,” Giorgi Liluashvili, a logistics manager in Tbilisi, said by telephone today. As much as $500,000 of goods including musical, studio and medical equipment has been destroyed, he said.
Cartu gave documents about the shipment violations to international organizations and embassies, said Tina Khidasheli, a leader of the opposition Republican Party and Ivanishvili’s political ally. Ivanishvili plans to expand the party’s political campaign across Georgia, she said in an interview.
Liluashvili said there is “no point” in sending the documents to the government and that Cartu plans to sue and present its evidence in court.
Georgia’s Revenue Service, which is responsible for customs and income tax, wasn’t available to comment because today is a national holiday.
Ivanishvili, whose net worth was put at $5.5 billion by Forbes in March, held talks with opposition leaders in October after announcing his political plans and lost his Georgian citizenship that month. He then renounced his French nationality after giving up a Russian passport in the hopes of restoring his Georgian nationality.
Police last year seized several million dollars and euros from an armored delivery van belonging to Ivanishvili’s Cartu Bank as part of a money-laundering probe.
--Editors: Jennifer M. Freedman, James Kraus
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