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According to the statement of a member of the United National Movement, Giorgi Kandelaki, the Check-in Georgia project, launched by the decision of the Government of Georgia, is marked with corruption. Mr Kandelaki stated: "The Head of Check-in Georgia, Davit Menabde, is simultaneously the head of LEPLs at the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection and is also the founder of Eastern Promotion. His brother-in-law, Irakli Shengelia, is the founder of Wizard Event which is in charge of the Tbilisi Concert Hall. Davit Menabde’s groomsman and the Manager of Wizard Georgia, Vazha Khachidze, is the founder of Tickets Georgia (the same as Online Tickets Ltd) which sells tickets for every concert and receives a substantial financial profit."

Based upon the decision of the Government of Georgia, the Check-in Georgia project is taking place throughout the country and includes the annual festivals supported by the Ministry of Culture and Monument protection. In total, 150 events will be held within Check-in Georgia’s activities. According to the clarification of the Government of Georgia, the project’s aim is to popularise Georgia’s tourism potential. GEL 29 million was allocated from the government’s catastrophe liquidation reserve fund to conduct Check-in Georgia. The project includes different types of events (in the period of 26 March to 30 December 2016) and includes outreach in Georgia’s regions. According to the information of the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection, GEL 29 million, allocated from the reserve fund, will be spent for the concerts of Eros Ramazzotti, Robbie Williams, MAROON 5, José Carreras and other singers. The Ministry has also published the current expenses.

Of additional note is that a representative of the Ukrainian agency ACA (which, according to the information provided by Rustavi 2, has worked with all the aforementioned celebrities) stated on air on Rustavi 2’s PS

show that the costs of the performances of foreign celebrities is GEL 10 million less as compared to the amount of money allocated by the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection. Additionally, it was reported that GEL 3 million will be added to the sum of money already allocated for the project based upon a decision of the Government of Georgia.

On the same show, Davit Menabde confirmed the family ties mentioned in the statement of Giorgi Kandelaki, MP.

According to the clarification given by a representative of the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection to FactCheck,

Eastern Promotion has nothing to do with the organisation of the Check-in Georgia project and the Culture Development Fund is in charge. The Culture Development Fund is an LEPL of the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection and Davit Menabde is its head. Mr Menabde was also a shareholder of Eastern Promotion, founded by the incumbent Minister of Culture and Monument Protection, Mikheil Giorgadze, although he renounced his ownership of the shares last year. Moreover, according to the information uploaded on the website of the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection, Eastern Promotion is named as the organiser of some of the events within the framework of the Check-in Georgia project.

Eastern Promotion was founded on 5 August 2010. Its director and owner of 22.5% of the company’s shares was the incumbent Minister of Culture and Monument Protection, Mikheil Giorgadze, until 23 March 2014. After Mikheil Giorgadze was appointed as Minister, Davit Menabde became the owner of 45% of the shares. However, Mr Menabde renounced his ownership of those rather expensive shares for free last year. After he renounced his ownership, he was appointed as the Head of the Culture Development Fund.

Research prepared by Transparency International Georgia details this and some other facts as well. The research also highlights that high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection follow their interests in selecting private companies and putting them in charge of organising events. Specifically, according to this research, after Mikheil Giorgadze’s appointment as Minister (July 2014) until the present day, companies which have ties with high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection have received GEL 2,421,743 either in the form of simplified purchases or direct funding. In total, 29% of the money spent for musical events in 2015 (GEL 4,762,767) was given to companies affiliated with Mikheil Giorgadze, Kakhi Kandelaki (Deputy Minister of Culture and Monument Protection) and Davit Menabde (Head of the Culture Development Fund). Of further mention is the Black Sea Jazz Festival which is organised by Eastern Promotion within the framework of the Check-in Georgia project.

In regard to Online Tickets Ltd, which sells the tickets for all of the concerts of foreign celebrities scheduled within the framework of the Check-in Georgia project, it won the tender announced by the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection. The tender (norm SPA160007894) was announced by the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection on 7 March 2016. Submitting applications ended on 28 March 2016. The presumable cost of purchase was GEL 450,000. The only participant of the tender was Online Tickets which won with GEL 285,000. According to the information of the National Agency of Public Registry, the owner of the company is indeed Vazha Khachidze.

Conclusion

Our research has made it clear that the Check-in Georgia project is being carried out by the LEPL Culture Development Fund of the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection. However, some of the events within the framework of the Check-in Georgia project are organised by Eastern Promotion which is affiliated with high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection.

According to the research of Transparency International Georgia, evidence of corruption and conflicts of interests are observed in the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection. The research highlights the exact events which are organised within the framework of the Check-in Georgia project and are handled by companies having ties with high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection. The existence of the family ties mentioned by Giorgi Kandelaki is also confirmed.

FactCheck concludes that Giorgi Kandelaki’s statement is TRUE.