Murusidze’s Alazani Valley Secret

Journalist: Nino Ramishvili ; Editor: Nino Zuriashvili
Divider dot 4 June 2024

Levan Murusidze: I’d rather have just one pheasant fluttering over the Alazani Valley.

Journalist’s voice: What links Levan Murusidze to lands just a few kilometers from the Alazani Valley?

Who owns 170 hectares of wheat fields in the Shiraki Valley?

Tamta Mikanadze:My father bought it and registered it to my name. My family owns it.

Journalist’s voice: Mr. Murusidze, did you register lands in Kakheti to your Tamta Mikanadze’s name? Do you confirm it?

Journalist’s voice: 120 m2 apartment by the Hippodrome.

Journalist’s voice: Did you buy it?

Tamta Mikanadze:Yes.

Journalist’s voice: What ties are there between Tamta Mikanadze and judge Levan Murusidze?

Journalist’s voice: Tamta Mikanadze is your acquaintance, isn’t she?

Levan Murusidze: Yes.

Journalist’s voice: Did you buy this apartment too for her?

Journalist’s voice: Who owns this property? And why is Levan Murusidze dodging Studio Monitor’s questions?

Murusidze’s Alazani Valley Secret

Levan Murusidze: I’d rather have just one pheasant fluttering along the Alazani than own all of Solomon’s treasure, Croesus’s riches, fabled gold mines, or shining rubies. This is why they’ll never beat us. I’d rather have just one pheasant fluttering along the Alazani Valley.

Weaved into poetic ornaments, Levan Murusidze’s sentiments toward the Alazani Valley are not coincidental. Levan Murusidze’s associate owns hectares of land in Sighnaghi and Dedoplistskaro, just a few kilometers from the Alazani Valley. The judge’s acquaintance became co-owner of a wheat field in the Shiraki Valley, famed for its rich natural resources and fertile crops, in 2016. Today we present to you the results of Studio Monitor’s months-long investigation into the ties between Levan Murusidze and the lands’ formal owner.

Journalist’s voice: At midnight, July 16, 2022, Soso Gogashvili, former deputy head of the State Security Service (SSS), was arrested. Apprehended at his home in a special operation and subsequently remanded, the former senior official was charged with disclosing state secrets and violating privacy. From his prison cell, Soso Gogashvili vowed to expose the judiciary. On September 22, 2022, he made a statement from jail and addressed Levan Murusidze.

Soso Gogashvili: My Murus, call it a threat or whatever you want, but in my world it means calling out.

Journalist’s voice: In a letter sent from jail, the former SSS official disclosed the following.

Soso Gogashvili: Chinchaladze and Murusidze own about 100 hectares of land in Dedoplistskaro, Kakheti. They bought it with my help in 2016. The parcels are registered to their authorized person. And they needed a knowledgeable person to take care of it. They asked me to find one, which I did. Since 2016 until my arrest, they maintained contact through a member of my security.

Journalist’s voice: On the same day, Alexandre Samkharadze, former head of Soso Gogashvili’s security, confirmed the former SSS official’s words to TV Pirveli.

Alexandre Samkharadze: In 2016, I already had active contact with Murusidze. After selling wheat, I would bring the cash to Murusidze, about 100-200 thousand.

Journalist’s voice: On September 22, TV Imedi aired a conversation between Levan Murusidze and Alexandre Samkharadze. This secret recording made by the judge shows that Levan Murusidze maintained close relations with both Soso Gogashvili and Alexandre Samkharadze. Among others, the conversation also touched on the Kakheti lands.

Levan Murusidze: I wake up this morning to find some unheard of nonsense on INTERPRESSNEWS. He decided to go against the court and me or whatever it is. I really didn’t expect that. So, I tell him, “If you choose this lowlife path, might as well go all the way.” Misha has nothing to do with this land. It belongs to one family, and he can settle whomever he pleases there.

Journalist’s voice: Next day, Alexandre Samkharadze, in a conversation with media outlets, identified the formal owner of the land in Kakheti.

Alexandre Samkharadze: It is Tamta Mikanadze. She registered this piece of land in 2016—in August, if I’m not mistaken. And now, on September 16, 2022, she fast-reregistered it to her mother and sister.

Journalist: So the registration was just a formality?

Alexandre Samkharadze: Of course. That’s why it was registered to a different name, to avoid mentioning Murusidze or Chinchaladze.

Journalist’s voice: After this information got out, media outlets disseminated documents showing that Tamta Mikanadze, in 2016, became co-owner of 170 hectares, i.e. 1,700,00 m2, in Kakheti. The land’s co-owner is Khatuna Martkoplishvili, Soso Gogashvili’s sister-in-law. The statement of the former SSS deputy head about Murusidze buying the land with his help is further backed up by a document from the registry showing that the new owners paid 168,000 USD for the property.

Documents obtained by Studio Monitor reveal that—on September 16, 2022, i.e. a few days before Levan Murusidze recorded his conversation with the head of Gogashvili’s security—Tamta Mikanadze kept some of the land and fast-registered the remaining portion of the property to her mother, Manana Doborjginidze, and sister, Shorena Mikanadze.

Only after that Levan Murusidze, in a conversation with Alexandre Samkharadze, said that the land belonged to one family. In this way, he confirmed being acquainted with Tamta Mikanadze and being aware of the land deals.

Studio Monitor set out collecting information about Tamta Mikanadze and probing into her ties to Levan Murusidze. We uncovered numerous interviews with Tamta Mikanadze revealing that she works for the National Food Agency. We also saw her leave the office’s territory. A little later, we filmed her parking near a building on Kartozia Street, Saburtalo District. Tamta Mikanadze’s car was repeatedly seen by the same building over the following days, allowing to conclude that this is her residence.

In the process of our journalistic investigation, we also filmed, on numerous occasions, another car. The automobile belongs to Levan Murusidze.

The judge never reported this new Mercedes ML in his financial declaration, though we frequently noticed it in his residence’s front yard in Dzegvi.

A few weeks later, Levan Murusidze reappeared on Kartozia Street, this time in a different car, a Hyundai Elantra owned by the court. We filmed this car parked near Tamta Mikanadze’s building at different times.

On April 14, after once again detecting the judge’s car parked outside, we entered the building to doorstep him by the entrance of Tamta Mikanadze’s apartment. We sought to ascertain that the clan judge was visiting Tamta Mikanadze.

We filmed Levan Murusidze leave her apartment. At the doorstep, you can see Tamta Mikanadze see him off.

Journalist: Mr. Murusidze, you frequently visit your acquaintance, Tamta Mikanadze…

Levan Murusidze: Yes, so what?

Journalist:  Soso Gogashvili identified Tamta Mikanadze as your confidant.

Levan Murusidze: Yes, so what?

Journalist: And you registered your lands in Kakheti to her.

Levan Murusidze: Yes, so what?

Journalist: Tamta Mikanadze is your close associate, right?

Levan Murusidze: Yes, so what?

Journalist’s voice: The judge confirmed his close acquaintance with Tamta. Then he tried to escape and headed toward the staircase, to dodge our questions.

Journalist: Did you register lands in Kakheti to Tamta Mikanadze? Do you confirm?

Journalist’s voice: Murusidze left our question unanswered. Next, we visited Tamta Mikanadze and asked how she came to own 170 hectares in Kakheti.

Journalist: In 2016, some 1,700,000 m2 of land previously bought in Kakheti by Levan Murusidze was registered to you.

Tamta Mikanadze:Levan Murusidze didn’t buy it. My father bought it and registered it to my name. My family owns it.

Journalist: How did your family buy it?

Tamta Mikanadze: My father did. He worked in agronomy all his life.

Journalist: Soso Gogashvili claims that Levan Murusidze bought the land and then reregistered it…

Tamta Mikanadze:Whatever Soso Gogashvili says… I’ve nothing to add.

Journalist’s voice: Notably, Khatuna Martkoplishvili, Soso Gogashvili’s sister-in-law, is Tamta Mikanadze’s co-owner of said 170 hectares of land. Tamta Mikanadze did not specify her or her father’s ties to Khatuna Martkoplishvili.

Journalist: How did it happen, then, that Khatuna Martkoplishvili, Soso Gogashvili’s sister-in-law, is one of the land’s co-owners?

Tamta Mikanadze: I can’t tell you. I didn’t know that back then.

Journalist: Why, there was a co-owner, and you didn’t know about it?

Tamta Mikanadze: My father bought the land.

Journalist: How did your father cross paths with Khatuna Martkoplishvili?

Tamta Mikanadze: The land is mine, my family’s. That’s all I can tell you.

Journalist: How did your father cross paths with Khatuna Martkoplishvili?

Tamta Mikanadze:I don’t know.

Journalist’s voice: Tamta Mikanadze is lying when she denies knowledge of Khatuna Martkoplishvili. Documents obtained by us from the Public registry show that the purchase deed was signed jointly by Mikanadze and Khatuna Martkoplishvili, Soso Gogashvili’s sister-in-law.

As part of the investigation against Soso Gogashvili, on the request of the State Security Service, the court seized his and his family’s properties, including the part of land owned by Khatuna Martkoplishvili. Soso Gogashvili’s refused to comment on this property.

Tamta Mikanadze’s father, Ednar Mikanadze, worked as a public servant for years. In 1999-2004, he filed financial declarations as the head of one of the units at the Ministry of Agriculture. Tamta Mikanadze’s mother, Manana Doborjginidze, was also a public servant. In 2021, the Statistics Office awarded her for 50 years of service. By the time she filed a financial declaration, their family income was 2,000 GEL, and their real estate included an apartment on Nutsubidze Plateau, Tbilisi. Later, 1,500 m2 of land in Gardabani was added to Ednar Mikanadze’s assets, along with a parcel of land and a house in Guria registered to Manana Doborjginidze’s name. No business is registered to Ednar Mikanadze in the Business Registry, and he has never been listed as an individual entrepreneur.

Journalist’s voice: We asked Manana Doborjginidze about the ownership of the land in Shiraki.

Journalist: Did your husband buy this land?

Manana Doborjginidze: Yes.

Journalist: How did he manage to do that?

MananaDoborjginidze: He had a senior position.

Journalist: How did your father buy it? He was a public servant filing relevant financial declarations….

Tamta Mikanadze: I can’t tell you anything. This is Levan Murusidze’s land. That’s what I have to tell you.

Journalist: How could your family afford 168,000 USD?

Tamta Mikanadze: I don’t know. I can’t tell you.

Journalist’s voice: Information obtained by Studio Monitor shows that Tamta Mikanadze has lived in a prestigious AXIS building in Saburtalo District for years. We inquired into the ownership of this 120 m2 apartment with a view of the Hippodrome.

Journalist (to Murusidze): Did you buy this apartment too for her?

Journalist’s voice: Levan Murusidze didn’t answer our question about buying an apartment in a prestigious AXIS building for Tamta Mikanadze.

Journalist: You’ve been residing in an AXIS building for years. Did you buy it?

Tamta Mikanadze:It’s my family’s.

Journalist: Did you buy it?

Tamta Mikanadze:Yes.

Journalist: How did you buy it? You’re a public servant, an official failing to file a declaration.

Tamta Mikanadze: My family bought it.

Journalist: How did your family afford it? Your family’s declaration is public.

Tamta Mikanadze: I don’t file declarations. My family does.

Journalist: Why isn’t this apartment listed in the registry?

Tamta Mikanadze: I can’t tell you more than I have. No matter what I say, it will be twisted anyway.

Journalist’s voice: TamtaMikanadze couldn’t explain to us why she failed to list this apartment in the registry as her property. The last Public Registry listing of this building, filed in April 2023, includes the owners of all apartments. The Mikanadze residence, however, is still listed as AXIS property. At the time, a square meter in the building cost 1,000 USD on average.

Tamta Mikanadze’s LinkedIn page shows that, since 2010, she served as head of the planning and analysis unit of the food safety department at the National Food Agency. The agency’s 2017 payroll roster sets her annual salary at 18,000 GEL. Mikanadze couldn’t explain how she could afford a 120,000 USD apartment.

Tamta Mikanadzehas an underage child born in the US 4 years ago, thus likely being a US citizen.

Journalist: You gave birth in America. Did Murusidze finance your trip to the US?

Tamta Mikanadze: I financed it myself.

Journalist’s voice: As we asked Murusidze about the land in Kakheti upon leaving Tamta Mikanadze’s apartment, the judge fled down the staircase. We also asked him whether or not he bought the AXIS apartment for Tamta Mikanadze, but he wouldn’t reply, running down 14 floors in one breath, getting into his car, and taking off.

Two years ago, Studio Monitor presented a journalistic investigation about Levan Murusidze’sundeclared assets. We discovered that the leader of the judiciary was holding back in his declarations real estate registered to his permanent female cohabitant. We also found out that the woman, Lela Chania, is into luxury brand clothing, accessories, and jewelry.

This journalistic investigation was mentioned in a report of the US Department of State. A few months later, the US sanctioned Levan Murusidze and three other judges.

Georgian Dream rejected the opposition’s demand to let a parliamentary commission probe into the issue of the sanctioned judges. Worse still, the court annulled the decision of the Anticorruption Council’s Advisory Board on studying the financial declarations of Levan Murusidze and other judges.

Journalist’s voice: Recommendations on preventing corruption among judges have yet to be implemented, the European Commission emphasizes, listing judicial vetting as one of the mandatory recommendations for Georgia’s accession to the EU. Nazi Janezashvilli, founder of Court Watch, an organization working on judiciary issues, argues that 60 judges, including Levan Murusidze, could be subjected to vetting.

Nazi Janezashvilli: The members of the High Council of Justice—whose appointment is another issue—must be vetted, similar to court chairs. If they believe themselves to be conscientious enough to have passed vetting in the past, why are they scared now? Apparently, they seriously fear failing the test.

Journalist: With vetting in place, how exactly is their conscientiousness tested?

Nazi Janezashvilli: One of the key criteria is their possible involvement in corrupt deals, how they amassed wealth, how they became rich abusing their positions as judges, with their salaries not sufficing to that end. Also, the way they make decisions on various court cases, whether or not they apply influence, or are subjected to influence themselves, in making relevant decisions.

Journalist’s voice: This recommendation from the EU has proved unacceptable to Georgian Dream. Despite sanctions and ample evidence, Bidzina Ivanishvili does not question the objectivity and decency of the judges.

Bidzina Ivanishvili: Judicial vetting is demanded to this day. In other words, it’s the adoption of foreign governance to carry out repressions and staff the judiciary with agents. And that disregarding the fact that all independent international studies hail Georgia’s judiciary as fair and effective, even ahead of the courts of many EU member states.

Journalist’s voice: Judges met EU-requested vetting quite critically.

Levan Murusidze: For years, work toward discrediting the judiciary has been on, with persecutions and demonization used against judges. In other words, fertile ground is being prepared to edge judges out of the court system. I am a conscientious judge.