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Georgian Opposition Tycoon Fined $90 Million

  • RFE/RL's Georgian Service

Bidzina Ivanishvili speaking at the rally on June 10.

Bidzina Ivanishvili speaking at the rally on June 10.

TBILISI -- The Tbilisi City Court has imposed a multimillion-dollar fine on the billionaire leader of the opposition Georgian Dream bloc of parties.

The court on June 11 found Bidzina Ivanishvili guilty of "violating Georgia's electoral and political funding laws" and fined him more than $90 million).

Georgia's Audit Chamber accused Ivanishvili of "illegally buying votes" by distributing thousands of free satellite antennas to citizens so that they could watch Ivanishvili's TV-9 television channel.

Ivanishvili's lawyer Eka Beselia told journalists that the court's decision was politically motivated, adding that she plans to appeal.

The court’s decision was announced while Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream is getting ready for parliamentary elections in October.

Ivanishvili has said he intends to run for president next year, when incumbent Mikheil Saakashvili's second term ends.

The Georgian Dream coalition gathered thousands of people on June 10 for a mass rally in Kutaisi, the largest city in western Georgia, moving their parliamentary elections campaign to the regions.

The businessman, who is worth an estimated $6.4 billion, promised to cut unemployment, boost industry, raise pensions, and improve social welfare, blaming Saakashvili for the state's problems.

Opinion polls however suggest that his alliance trails the governing party.

Ivanishvili was stripped of his Georgian passport for violating citizenship laws after announcing his decision to enter politics.

The elections are due to take place in autumn.

WIth reporting by Interfax, AFP, and Reuters

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