Head of State Railway Company of Georgia Has Undeclared Villa

The latest Georgian official found to have failed to declare a valuable property, as required by law, is David Peradze, head of Georgia Railway. It’s a pattern journalists have revealed before.

Key Findings

  • In his mandatory asset declarations, Peradze declared the land on which his villa sits, but not the house itself. Its value is unknown.
  • Responding on his behalf, the railway company said it had not been declared because it was still in the final stages of construction.
  • However, reporters have seen evidence that the Peradze family is already living there.
  • Peradze’s wife has not declared a number of apparent luxury purchases, including Prada and Dior purses and a Cartier bracelet.
  • OCCRP’s Georgian partners have previously exposed other top officials who have failed to declare expensive properties. The country’s enforcement of asset declaration rules for officials has been criticized by good governance advocates as inadequate.

In the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, near a popular resort area with a water park and arboretum, stands a two-story home with a minimalist exterior and a flat gray roof. Its entire second floor is ringed by one continuous balcony. Large glass doors look out onto a well-kempt lawn and garden, a sparkling blue swimming pool, and a tennis court. A gated driveway slopes down to an underground garage.

This elegant villa belongs to a man named David Peradze. Since November 2017, he has been the director of Georgian Railway, the state company that manages the country’s strategically important rail transport system.

But Peradze’s lavish home has never appeared in his asset declarations, which, as a government official, he is required to file every year. He has declared the plot of land on which it sits, however land records do not indicate that there is a villa on the site. The value of the home is unknown.

A new investigation by OCCRP’s Georgian partner, Studio Monitor, also reveals several other omissions.

Photos in which Peradze’s wife Tamar Kakhaia is tagged on Facebook show that she has a collection of luxury-brand shoes and accessories, including Prada and Dior purses and a Cartier bracelet. These items are sold online for between $3,520 and $8,000, and though all expenditures greater than 5,000 GEL (around $1,900) must be listed, Peradze has never declared any of these items.

Some undeclared luxury items owned by Tamar Kakhaia
Credit: Facebook; illustration by James O’Brien Some of Tamar Kakhaia’s undeclared luxury items appear in Facebook photos in which she is tagged.

Reporters also found that Kahaia drives a Toyota RAV4 that is registered to her brother and is not included on her husband’s two most recent asset declarations. (Peradze did include a Toyota RAV4 on his declaration for his wife in several previous years. This may be a different vehicle.)

Responding to reporters’ questions on Peradze’s behalf, Georgian Railway said that his villa is still being built, but it will be declared as required once completed.

“As for the house, its construction has been going on for several years and is still not finished,” Georgian Railway wrote to Studio Monitor. “Some work is left, including the improvement of the drainage system, and [the villa] will be declared according to the rules when it passes final inspection.”

When journalists visited the home, however, it appeared not only livable but actually occupied.

Drone footage captured in September 2023 shows a woman hanging laundry on the balcony and children riding a bike and a scooter around the property. There are no visible signs of construction work, the lawn and garden are well manicured, and there is patio furniture on the deck. In addition, the SUV driven by Peradze’s wife has been spotted at the villa on five occasions.

A Toyota RAV4
Credit: Studio Monitor A Toyota RAV4 in Peradze’s driveway.

Regarding her luxury items, Georgian Railway responded that Kakhaia purchased them with her own money, and that any item which must be declared will be.

“In David Peradze’s declaration, his wife’s personal income is indicated,” the state company wrote. “The aforementioned declared incomes provide for the wife’s personal consumption items and if any of them needs to be declared, they will be reflected in the declaration in the appropriate manner.”

“As for the car, she definitely uses the family-owned Toyota RAV4,” the company added.

OCCRP has already reported on problems with Georgia’s declaration system, which was adopted in 2017 as a corruption-fighting mechanism. But the penalty for failing to declare assets — a one-time fine — appears to be of little deterrence.

Over half of the 346 officials whose declarations were checked by officials last year had omissions and inaccuracies, according to a report by Transparency International.

“The [Peradze] case is a direct example of the violation of the obligation to declare,” says Sandro Kevkhishvili, an analyst at the Georgian chapter of Transparency International. “These cases must be sent to the prosecutor’s office for further investigation. Only an investigation can determine whether there are actually undocumented assets and various corruption crimes.”

In his first five years as railway director, Peradze earned about $450,000 from his salary and other sources. His wife co-owns a small business from which she reported profits of $55,000 in the same period. The couple have also taken out a few hundred thousand dollars in mortgages in recent years. It is therefore plausible that the couple could afford their undeclared assets on their known incomes, making the failure to list them somewhat of a mystery.

In response to a query from journalists, Georgia’s Anti-Corruption Bureau wrote that Peradze had been selected for monitoring by an independent commission that chooses a certain number of declarations to be verified every year. “The declaration of David Peradze’s property status will be checked by the end of the year,” the Bureau wrote.

Rows of railway carriages
Credit: Ryhor Bruyeu / Alamy Stock Photo Rows of older railway carriages at Tbilisi’s railway station.

Peradze was appointed the director of Georgian Railway in November 2017. Prior to that, he had been the director of Mtkvari HPP, a hydropower plant in southern Georgia owned by the country’s richest man, Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Ivanishvili founded Georgia’s ruling party, Georgian Dream, in 2012. Though officially retired from politics, his pervasive influence over the state is well-documented.

The EU has included “deoligarchization” among the primary conditions of Georgia’s accession to the bloc, a requirement widely understood as a call to curtail Ivanishvili’s system of informal power. The prevalence of the oligarch’s former employees at the highest levels of government has led the local chapter of Transparency International to call Georgia a “captured state.”

The country’s railways are a strategic asset, and their importance has only grown. Georgian rail lines form an important part of the so-called “Middle Corridor” route connecting two of the world’s largest traders — China and the European Union — while bypassing Russia.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has opened a new window of opportunity for the Middle Corridor, part of which is Georgia,” George Abashishvili, a former head of administration and economic advisor to the president, told reporters. “The biggest challenge is the infrastructure: how well can this infrastructure withstand the increased demand for freight?”

In November 2017, when Peradze was appointed the director of Georgian Railway, the company was in the midst of a troubled modernization program. Underway for years under both the current and previous governments, and plagued with delays, the still-unfinished effort has left the country’s railways working at half capacity, according to official statistics.

Fact-checking was provided by the OCCRP Fact-Checking Desk.

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