Mamuka Khazaradze and Badri Japaridze, the founders of Georgia’s TBC Bank, have challenged the Georgian government over its alleged stance on the Anaklia Deep Sea Port, claiming that the government is blocking the development project from being completed.
“We will definitely build Anaklia, either with you or without you,” Mr Khazaradze told the Georgian press after both his and Mr Japaridze’s bank accounts were frozen, suggesting that the government had been involved.
The freezing of the accounts comes after both Mr Khazaradze and Mr Japaridze were recently charged with money laundering regarding a case from 2008. In the wake of the charges, both businessmen stepped down from their positions as chairman and deputy chairman of TBC Bank, as well as the Anaklia Development Consortium.
On August 19, Conti Group International, a major American investor in the construction of the deep sea port, announced that it would leave the consortium. “The Group has not felt the support from the Georgian government for the project,” its said in a statement.
Reacting to their decision, the Georgian government said that the allegation was not true, adding that the American company was “the only company from the Anaklia Development Consortium to meet the tender requirements announced by the Georgian government.”
While Mr Khazaradze claimed that the project would not be put in jeopardy, the Georgian infrastructure ministry stressed that Anaklia would be financially sustainably only if Conti Group was replaced with another major western investor.
“The United States continues to believe that the Anaklia Port Project is very important for Georgia’s economic development and for the fulfilment of its potential as a trade and transportation hub,” US Chargé d’Affaires to Georgia Elisabeth Rood said following the announcement.
Earlier this month, Georgia’s prime minister, Mamuka Bakhtadze, stressed that the project was “vital for the development of the country” and it should be built.
The construction of the Anaklia Deep Sea Port is the largest infrastructure investment in Georgia’s history, aimed at creating a new deepwater port at the Black Sea capable of handling up to 10,000 vessels. With the US company’s decision to leave the Consortium, China is reportedly interest in joining. Remaining members are Georgia’s TBC Bank Holding, SSA Marine from the US, British investment group Wondernet Express and G-Star Ltd from Bulgaria.