World Bulletin/News Desk
A Georgian court froze the bank accounts of retired footballer and opposition leader Kakha Kaladze in a money-laundering probe on Friday that opponents foes of President Mikhail Saakhshvili's government say is a campaign of legal harassment.
The football star, who won the Champions League twice with Italy's AC Milan, will stand against the ruling party in October parliamentary polls as part of a newly formed Georgian Dream coalition led by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili.
Ivanishvili, 56, whose fortune is estimated at $6.4 billion by Forbes magazine, has united and breathed new life into the fractured opposition in the Caucasus state of 4.5 million, angering the government, which still leads opinion polls.
"It's obvious that it's a political persecution," Maya Panjikidze, a spokeswoman for Georgian Dream, said of the latest case to dog the opposition coalition.
"We consider the court's decision as illegal," she said.
Georgia's chief prosecutor's office said in a statement that Kaladze was under suspicion after he received $6 million on his bank account and then withdrawn 1.6 million lari ($97,000) "in a short period of time".
Saakashvili became the West's darling when he rose to power after the bloodless "rose revolution" that toppled Eduard Shevardnadze in 2003. But opponents have since accused him of curbing political freedom and criticise him for leading Georgia into a brief, disastrous war with Russia in August 2008.
In the latest twist in the standoff between Saakashvili's government and his foes, a Georgian court on Friday released assets seized from Ivanishvili after he paid a $49 million fine.
Ivanishvili's Cartu Bank, JSC Cartu Group, and a 21.7-percent share in Progress Bank were seized in June after the billionaire refused to pay a multi-million dollar fine.
At the time, Ivanishvili argued it was illegal to confiscate the assets, saying he had passed all shares in the companies to his son. State authorities, however, said the asset transfer had not been registered with the Georgian National Bank.
Ivanishvili paid the 80-million-lari fine earlier this week, but maintained the penalty was "illegal".
A once-reclusive tycoon, Ivanishvili and his family have come under the state scrutiny in a myriad of cases since he launched a political movement last year.
President Emmanuel Macron says UN Security Council must condemn genocide, ethnic cleansing in Myanmar
Transport for London said the conduct of Uber, which has around 40,000 drivers and 3.5 million customers in the British capital, had raised concerns.
Changes to labor code will only take effect after other completing decrees are signed before end-2017
Kurd region govt is forcing Kirkuk officials to show support for next week’s referendum on independence, Turkmen leader says
Moscow has 'intensified its policy of occupation' in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili tells UN
Police suspect man helped terrorists acquire massive amounts of explosives
Company’s Twitter account repeatedly sent concerned consumers to fake website critical of its handling of data breach
Leaders object to KRG referendum vote, agree to fight terror groups with ‘determination’
Islamophobia threatening alienation among Europe's Muslims despite high attachment to home countries
Now everything is down to those plans becoming reality, the lender cautioned.
Turkish aid agency responds in aftermath of 8.2-magnitude earthquake which stuck on Tuesday
Thousands took to the streets of the Mediterranean seaside city on Wednesday after police detained key members of the team allegedly organising the vote slated for October 1 in a region deeply divided over independence.
Terrorist group loses five more villages in Saladin province north of Baghdad, local security sources say
Local media reported that Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a former African Union chief, was sworn in Thursday as a member of parliament for the governing African National Congress.
EU says CETA free-trade deal with Canada will not be 'fully implemented' until all member states ratify it
May flew home with Johnson overnight from New York, where they had attended the UN General Assembly, landing at dawn before holding a special cabinet meeting in Downing Street.