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Georgia's Former Railroad Chief Arrested On Embezzlement Charges

Tbilisi, 16 January 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Georgian police today detained former railroads head Akaki Chkhaidze at a hospital in Batumi, the capital of the autonomous republic of Adjaria.

Chkhaidze had been undergoing medical treatment in Batumi since late December when he reportedly suffered a mild heart attack after Georgian prosecutors said they wanted to question him over tax evasion and embezzlement charges.

Chkhaidze was a member of the pro-government election coalition in last November's disputed parliamentary elections that led to President Eduard Shevardnadze's resignation. He denies the accusations brought against him.

Former opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili, who won a landslide victory in this month's early presidential polls, has vowed to take decisive action against crime and corruption.

Today's operation was apparently not coordinated with the Adjar leadership. Saakashvili welcomed Chkhaidze's detention and said he would not let Adjaria turn into a "haven for criminals."

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