On October 25, 2022, the Institute for the Development of Freedom of Information released a study titled "Gifts Received by Public Officials 2020-2022”, which delved into the disclosed information regarding gifts received by officials within the executive branch and their respective family members. The research findings indicated that during the period of 2020-2022, there were numerous instances in which officials within the executive authorities received gifts of significant value.
Furthermore, the research highlighted circumstances pertaining to the relationship between the recipient official and the gift giver, the unclear origin of funds associated with the gifts, and other factors. These aspects cast doubts on the legality of several cases.
IDFI is actively monitoring the declared information regarding gifts received by officials across different branches of government. The current study specifically examines the disclosed details concerning gifts received by judges during the period of 2020-2022. While judges may not fall under the definition of public servants as outlined in the Law of Georgia "On Public Service," it's important to note that they are still bound by the provisions of the “Law of Georgia on the fight against corruption." This includes adherence to regulations regarding the acceptance of gifts. Accordingly, in the case of judges, there are the same restrictions regarding the acceptance of gifts as there are for other public servants. In particular, judges are prohibited from receiving any gifts or services that may influence the performance of their official duties. The total worth of gifts received within the year must not surpass 15% of the individual's official annual salary, with a limit of 5% for a single gift. Each family member's total gift value throughout the year should not exceed 1,000 GEL, and the limit for a one-time gift is set at 500 GEL.
The "Law of Georgia on the fight against corruption" outlines exceptions regarding the acceptance of gifts by civil servants. Notably, a gift received from a family member or a close relative is exempted from being categorized as a gift under the law. Criminal liability is incurred by a public official or an equivalent individual for accepting a gift prohibited by law. It is important to note that Georgian legislation does not impose any form of responsibility on a family member of a civil servant who receives a gift prohibited by law.
This study unveils findings from the monitoring of judges' declarations spanning the years 2020-2022 . On one front, it illuminates the individuals who received the most lavish gifts, while on the other, it delves into cases where the alignment of these received gifts with legal standards comes into question.
Between 2020 and 2022, a total of 49 judges or their family members were recipients of gifts, the cumulative value of which amounted to 5 million GEL;
During the period of 2020 to 2022, declarant judges directly received a gift valued at 3 million GEL, while a separate gift amounting to 2 million GEL was received by a family member of the judges;
Judges received 91% of the total gift value, equivalent to 4.5 million GEL, from family members and close relatives. Additionally, 8% of the gifts, totaling 430 thousand GEL, originated from relatives whose receipt of gifts is restricted by law. The remaining 1%, amounting to 33.4 thousand GEL, was sourced from other channels;
Judges received gifts totaling 2.3 million GEL in cash, 2.6 million GEL in the form of real estate, and the remaining 129.5 thousand GEL in the form of cars or other valuable items;
Among the members of the Constitutional Court, the sole recipient of a gift in the period spanning 2020 to 2022 was Eva Gotsiridze. She received a cash sum of 19.6 thousand euros from a family member;
Within the cohort of Supreme Court judges, Aleksandre Tsuladze was gifted a plot of land valued at 200,000 USD, while Giorgi Mikautadze received a monetary gift amounting to 100,000 USD, both bestowed by their respective parents;
In the period of 2020-2022, the total value of gifts received by 18 judges surpassed 100 thousand GEL;
In the years 2020-2022, the mother of Mikheil Chinchaladze's wife sent a gift totaling 68.8 thousand US dollars and 2.3 thousand GEL to Chinchaladze’s family members (wife and son). It's worth noting that Mikheil Chinchaladze has been sanctioned by the United States State Department due to involvement in significant corrupt activities;
As part of the monitoring process, seven instances were uncovered where judges and their family members were purportedly in receipt of gifts in violation of the law;
The individual declarations submitted by the judges lack precise information regarding the relationship between the recipient and the donor of the gifts.
The monitoring of judges' property declarations for the years 2020-2022 reveals a pattern similar to that observed among public officials in the executive branch. During this period, there were numerous instances where judges received gifts of substantial value. Except for a lone instance, judges typically receive gifts from individuals whose gift-giving falls outside legal restrictions. Nevertheless, even in these instances, inquiries arise regarding the source of funds for the gifts, necessitating further investigation for a comprehensive understanding. In light of this, the United States State Department could classify the involvement in what is commonly referred to as "significant corrupt activity" as posing a particularly high risk. This is underscored by substantial monetary gifts exchanged among family members within the court clan. As an illustration, the family members of the sanctioned Court of Appeal judge, Mikheil Chinchaladze, received gifts from abroad amounting to 68.8 thousand US dollars. Additionally, Supreme Court judge Giorgi Mikautadze received a gift of 100 thousand US dollars from his mother, among other instances.
Examining judges' declarations as an example, it becomes evident that the regulation and enforcement of the gift policy in the public service pose a significant challenge in Georgia. The existing regulations and unclear records within the Georgian legislation contribute to this pressing issue. To illustrate, the legislation in Georgia imposes restrictions on the acceptance of specific gifts by the family members of civil servants. However, it is noteworthy that there is a lack of established measures of responsibility for violations of this norm. This gap in accountability raises concerns about the effectiveness of the current legal framework in addressing potential misconduct related to gift acceptance.
IDFI asserts that the increasing prevalence of officials, including judges, receiving gifts in recent years underscores the necessity for monitoring legal restrictions on gifting to public servants. There is a clear imperative to enhance the effectiveness of enforcement mechanisms in order to address and mitigate potential issues arising from the widespread acceptance of gifts.
 In adherence to the procedure for completing officials' property declarations, the document encompasses details regarding gifts received in the preceding year. Consequently, the declarations completed between 2021 and 2023, as scrutinized in the study, encompass data pertaining to gifts received by officials during the period of 2020 to 2022.
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