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Georgian Opera Star Questioned In Embezzlement Probe

Paata Burchuladze (center) at Tbilisi City Court on February 9.

TBILISI -- Paata Burchuladze, a prominent opera singer who challenged Georgia's ruling coalition in 2016 parliamentary elections, has been questioned by prosecutors investigating allegations of embezzlement and misuse of funds by his charitable foundation.

Burchuladze's lawyer Soso Baratashvili told reporters on February 9 that his client had returned from Russia several days ago and was ready to answer any questions from prosecutors.

Before being questioned by prosecutors at the Tbilisi City Court, with a judge present, Burchuladze suggested that the allegations were unfair and told journalists that he hopes justice will prevail.

"It is a historic day today as today kindness is punishable and [prosecutors] are ready to interrogate a man of so many kind deeds," Burchuladze said.

Internationally known operatic bass Burchuladze, 62, has performed in leading opera houses in Europe and the United States.

In 2016 he established a political party, called State for the People, to challenge the incumbent Georgian Dream coalition government in elections in October of that year.

Burchuladze's party failed to win seats in parliament.

Since July 2017, Burchuladze has been leading the opera division of the Moscow-based Mikhailovsky Theater, one of Russia's oldest opera and ballet houses.