Ex-President Saakashvili Claims Ivanishvili Wants to "Seize" Tskaltubo Resort

Ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, who is in exile due to various charges against him in Georgia, says that the announcement from ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party founder and ex-PM, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, that he can buy and restore Tskaltubo resort, is an attempt to "seize state property."

Two days ago, Ivanishvili said that as the state does not have the resources to develop Tskaltubo, a spa resort in west-central Georgia, Imereti region, he has decided to completely redeem all 22 hotels and 9 baths of the resort and rehabilitate them.

“Since the state does not have the resources to invest the required several hundred million for the full-scale rehabilitation of Tskaltubo, and there is no development plan for the resort, I have decided to manage the Tskaltubo rehabilitation project personally. I will redeem all 22 hotels, 9 baths and rehabilitate them fully,” the statement reads.

He highlighted that Tskaltubo has the potential to become the health and tourism capital of the region in the coming years.

“I will not seek any profit: the maximum price will be the prime cost of the facilities. At the same time, I am ready to give these projects to interested businesses at a significant discount,” he said.

Saakashvili claims that the Tskaltubo development project was launched by him in 2009, when he was still President, but that it was halted by the Georgian Dream government. He claims that Bidzina Ivanishvili plans to seize $700 million worth of property for free.

The ex-President released a video on his Facebook page, saying that “there has never been such a large-scale robbery in the history of Georgia by any of its invaders.”

“We had a project on virtually all other tourist sites in Tskaltubo. The major part was to be completed by the end of 2013 and the rest within two years. Ivanishvili came and stopped everything,” said Saakashvili, adding the ruling party Chair wants to get the Tskaltubo property for free.

In addition to Saakashvili, Mamuka Khazaradze, co-founder of Georgia’s largest bank, TBC Bank, and a founder of the movement Lelo, says that Ivanishvili’s statement “contains signs of racketeering.”

Khazaradze says that Ivanishvili is the “informal ruler” of Georgia and his statement is the continuation of a “misappropriation process.”

"This is a continuation of the country's misappropriation process, which Ivanishvili has already carried out at the Prosecutor's Office, court, state institutions, and now, with money of uncertain origin which he gained in Russia and money coming from the Panama Offshore Company, he continues to destroy and put into his pocket state property,” Saakashvili stressed.

Minister of Economy Natia Turnava names Ivanishvili's announcement a "charity initiative" and says it "is not a profitable business," adding that the expenses needed to rehabilitate the town amount to hundreds of million dollars.

The Minister also said that "under the unprecedented initiative announced by Bidzina Ivanishvili, Tskaltubo will not only restore its former glory but will become one of the most famous tourist attractions in Eastern Europe because of its unique nature, waters and architecture."

To note, of the 22 sanatoriums in Tskaltubo which Ivanishvili plans to buy, 15 are in the balance of the National Property Agency of the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia.

The town of Tskaltubo is situated in the central part of Western Georgia, only 7km from the city of Kutaisi, 140km from the Black Sea and 245 km from Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. In this picturesque place, the resort of the Ministry of Defense of the Soviet Union was located on 16 hectares with a beautiful forest and historical buildings. This was where Stalin would spend his vacations. Another significant factor in Tskaltubo is its architecture, which is a synthesis of Stalinist period classical style and Georgian ethnic decor with Gothic and Roman features.

Currently, the spa receives some 700 visitors a year, and since 1993 many of the sanatorium complexes have been devoted to housing around 9000 refugees, displaced from their homes after the conflict in breakaway Abkhazia in the 1990s.

By Tea Mariamidze

31 October 2019 20:14