In the scenic surroundings of Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, near a popular resort area boasting a water park and arboretum, stands a striking two-story villa. With its minimalist exterior, flat gray roof, and a second-floor balcony encircling the entire structure, the residence exudes an air of luxury. The property features a well-tended garden, a glistening swimming pool, and even a tennis court, all accessible via a gated driveway leading to an underground garage.
This lavish villa belongs to David Peradze, who has held the position of director at Georgian Railway, the state entity overseeing the nation’s crucial rail transport system, since November 2017. However, despite being a government official, the opulent home has never appeared on Peradze’s annual asset declarations, which are mandatory.
While the land on which the villa sits has been declared, no records indicate the existence of the villa itself, leaving its true value unknown. Additionally, an investigation by OCCRP’s Georgian partner, Studio Monitor, has unveiled several other discrepancies.
Photos on social media show Peradze’s wife, Tamar Kakhaia, wearing luxury-brand shoes and accessories, including Prada and Dior purses and a Cartier bracelet. These items, valued between US$3,520 and US$8,000, exceed the threshold for declaration of expenditures above 5,000 GEL (approximately US$1,900). Yet, Peradze has never declared any of these luxury items.
Moreover, Kakhaia drives a Toyota RAV4, registered in her brother’s name, which has not been included in her husband’s two most recent asset declarations. It’s worth noting that Peradze did declare a Toyota RAV4 for his wife in previous years, but it might be a different vehicle.
In response to inquiries on behalf of Peradze, Georgian Railway explained that the villa is still under construction and will be declared once completed. The company stated, “Some work is left, including the improvement of the drainage system, and [the villa] will be declared according to the rules when it passes final inspection”.
However, when visited by journalists, the residence appeared occupied and not under construction, with drone footage showing signs of habitation, including laundry on the balcony and children playing on the property.
Regarding the luxury items, Georgian Railway claimed that Kakhaia purchased them with her own money and assured that any item requiring declaration would be reported accordingly. They also stated that she uses the family-owned Toyota RAV4.
This investigation highlights issues with Georgia’s asset declaration system, introduced in 2017 as an anti-corruption measure. The penalty for failing to declare assets is a one-time fine, which appears to be insufficient as a deterrent. Transparency International reported that over half of the 346 officials whose declarations were examined last year had inaccuracies and omissions.
Sandro Kevkhishvili, an analyst at the Georgian chapter of Transparency International, called the Peradze case a direct example of a declaration violation and emphasized the need for further investigation.
In his first five years as railway director, Peradze earned approximately US$450,000 from salary and other sources, while his wife reported profits of US$55,000 from a small business during the same period. The couple also took out several hundred thousand dollars in mortgages in recent years.
Given their known incomes, it is plausible that they could afford their undeclared assets, raising questions about the failure to disclose them.
Georgia’s accession to the European Union includes a requirement for “deoligarchization”, seen as a call to curtail the influence of powerful figures like Bidzina Ivanishvili, the country’s richest man and founder of the ruling party, Georgian Dream. Ivanishvili’s influence in the state has led to concerns about a “captured state” with oligarchic control.
Georgia’s railways are strategically vital, serving as a crucial part of the “Middle Corridor” route connecting China and the European Union while bypassing Russia. As global trade demands increase, the nation’s railway infrastructure faces challenges in accommodating the rising freight demand, further emphasizing the importance of transparency and accountability in managing these assets.