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One Belt, One Road, and One Troubled Georgian Bank

Prominent banker claims the government is trying to muscle in on a big Chinese-backed port project.

8 March 2019

Allegations of financial malfeasance at one of Georgia’s largest banks could slow work at the showpiece port planned someday to be the largest in the Black Sea.

 

The Anaklia port is due to begin operations in 2021. Financed by Georgian, European, and American investors, as well as the Chinese-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, it is foreseen as a major hub in China’s continent-spanning Belt and Road initiative, The Economist’s Charlemagne column said last month.

 

Mamuka Khazaradze, the founder of the bank Georgian authorities suspect of money laundering, accused the government of a multi-pronged attack on the bank in a speech in parliament Monday shown on live television.

 

View of Anaklia. Image via helene veilleux/Flickr.

 

TBC Holding, an affiliate of Khazaradze’s TBC Bank, leads the international consortium financing the Anaklia project. Some government critics accuse it of trying to scuttle the project or take control of it, Eurasianet.org writes.

 

By opening a much-needed deep-water port in the region, Anaklia would end the current bottleneck on one of the main trade routes between China and Europe, Charlemagne writes. The port will have an annual freight capacity twice that of Georgia’s existing ports combined, and upgrades could make it the largest on the Black Sea within four decades.

 

Khazaradze also accused officials – Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia and the president and vice president of Georgia’s central bank – of putting pressure on him to help the ruling Georgian Dream party’s candidate in last year’s presidential election.

 

He told lawmakers officials told TBC Bank to participate in a debt relief program for 600,000 people financed by a foundation affiliated with Georgian Dream founder Bidzina Ivanishvili, according to Democracy & Freedom Watch.

 

The relief program was announced shortly before the second-round runoff vote won by the party’s candidate Salome Zurabishvili.

 

 

  • Anaklia is one of many major urbanistic and infrastructure projects in the Belt and Road scheme stretching from Central Asia to Poland.

 

  • Across the Caucasus in Azerbaijan, a seaport and special economic zone are rising at Alyat, south of Baku.

 

  • Anaklia consortium “insiders” claim it has raised $600 million and that work is continuing, according to Charlemagne.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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