Georgia: Nine Arrested After the Tbilisi Fountain Electrocutions
Georgian authorities on Tuesday arrested nine people, including one public official, in connection with last week’s electrocution in Tbilisi’s newly refurbished fountain that killed a 13-year-old girl and injured two children – said the Interior Ministry in a statement.
The arrests include Lasha Purtskhvanidze, director of Ltd Greenservice+, the company that built the fountain. Purtskhvanidze was briefly detained and interrogated on Friday. He denied any wrongdoing.
The director of Mshenexpert, a company that was subcontracted to inspect the works, and the Deputy Head of the City Hall’s Environmental Protection Service were also among the arrested.
All nine face charges of criminal negligence and document falsification, each of which might lead to imprisonment for up to three years.
Following the incident, OCCRP revealed that Ltd Greenservice+ won the US$4.3 million contract. According to the findings, the company indeed submitted six inspection reports to the City Hall as agreed.
These were performed by private companies hired by Greenservice+. They all claimed that the work had been done properly.
The Interior Ministry attributed partial blame for the tragedy to the Deputy Head of the Environmental Protection Service, suggesting he did not properly check the completed project.
Ltd Greenservice+ was red-flagged in 2018, when a report by Transparency International Georgia recommended that it should be barred from public procurement, as its owners had been previously convicted of corruption.
The number of the arrests might not be final.
“The investigation is ongoing, the number of accused may increase,” Said Kakha Muradashvili, Deputy Director of the Tbilisi Police Department.
In the aftermath of the arrests, Giga Gigashvili, Head of the Environmental Protection Service, resigned. Gigashvili, alongside two of his colleagues, signed all six inspection reports.
“My Deputy is currently under arrest due to the tragedy. As the head of the department, I, of course, feel moral responsibility for the actions of my deputy, and all my employees. I will fully cooperate with the investigation to uncover the truth,” he said.