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Georgian Defense Officials Face Investigation

6 January 2005 -- The office of Georgia's prosecutor-general and the parliament's accounting chamber yesterday launched an investigation into allegations of fraud and corruption in the country's Defense Ministry.

Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili said on 4 January the ministry's accounting was so poor and so confusing that it was impossible to even say how many men were serving in the armed forces.

Okruashvili said some soldiers were living in tents instead of barracks and food and military uniforms were inferior because of fraud perpetrated by high-ranking military officials.

Okruashvili blamed former Deputy Defense Minister Paata Gaprindashvili and other officials for the fiasco, vowing justice would be swift in coming.

"I want to see them in prison within a month," Okruashvili said.

Gaprindashvili denied any wrongdoing.

Okruashvili, who was named defense minister last month, said Georgia's armed forces were in worse shape today than they were prior to the so-called "Rose Revolution" that ousted former leader Eduard Shevardnadze in late 2003.

Corruption was seen as running unchecked under Shevardnadze and the fight against corruption was one of the opposition's strongest arguments for replacing him.

(RFE/RL/AP/Prime News)

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