Monday, December 24, 2007

Rupert Murdoch's Tie to a Dubious Assassination Plot

Georgian oligarch claims he is assassination target
Robert Booth
The Guardian
December 24, 2007

A Surrey-based billionaire who is seeking to become president of the former Soviet republic of Georgia claims he is being targeted in an assassination plot.

Badri Patarkatsishvili, who amassed a £6bn fortune from the privatisation of state industries in Russia in the 1990s, has hired lawyers including Lord Goldsmith, the former attorney general, after he received taped evidence of an assassin apparently being briefed to kill him.

Methods discussed in the 45-minute audio tape included a plan to murder him in the UK or Israel, where he also has a home, or as he flies in his private plane from Tiblisi, the Georgian capital, to Batumi on the Black Sea. Patarkatsishvili also claimed that six to eight weeks ago a squad of four Georgians came to London, "sent to do something against me".

Lord Goldsmith said yesterday Patarkatsishvili was taking the threat "very seriously". He added: "I am aware that he has given instruction to other advisers that police be informed of the threat. Debevoise & Plimpton has been retained to represent him and the managers for other investments in Georgia in connection with his presidential election campaign, protection of the campaign and the protection of assets in Georgia."

Elections are due on January 5, but Patarkatsishvili has delayed his return to Georgia because he feels unsafe.

He helped finance the "rose revolution" that swept the current president, Mikhail Saakashvili, to power four years ago. Then relations soured.

Patarkatsishvili backed opposition protests in Georgia last month in which hundreds were injured and a state of emergency was called.

Police stormed and took off air the Imedi television channel, which was founded by Patarkatsishvili and is managed by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. Standard Bank, a Georgian commercial bank which is closely linked to the tycoon, has been taken over by state administrators.

Patarkatsishvili has described the current regime as "a dictatorial junta" and said in an interview last month: "My election slogan will be 'Georgia without Saakashvili is Georgia without terror'."

He told the Sunday Times this weekend: "I have 120 bodyguards but I know that's not enough. I don't feel safe anywhere and that is why I'm particularly not going to Georgia."

Patarkatsishvili claimed he heard about the plot to kill him 10 days ago. The taped conversation is thought to be between Uvais Akhmadov, a Chechen warlord, and an official in Georgia's interior ministry.

According to transcripts published in the Sunday Times, the official described Patarkatsishvili as "a political problem" and said Georgia did not want to be seen to be involved in an assassination abroad.

"Because of that I called you. This person is very frequently in London, constantly. In a month he'll spend two weeks there, two weeks in Israel. I've been given a clear order to check whether there is the possibility on your side to help us in this business ...

"We want this person to disappear completely, with his escorts, with everything. So that everyone basically disappears."

A spokesman for the Georgian embassy in London said the alleged plot "sounded like a conspiracy theory most probably designed to boost a presidential candidate's profile.",,2231949,00.html
Rupert Murdoch, Embroiled in the Caucasus
The World
November 18, 2007

TBILISI, Georgia

TO the world out there, the recent events here on the rim of the old Soviet empire may have fallen under the heading of One More Upheaval in a Place I’ve Never Heard Of. The opposition in Georgia held major protests. The president was displeased. Riot police were dispatched. Hostilities broke out. A television station was violently shut down. And so on.

But then the owner of the television station howled, and that voice was hard to ignore. How did Rupert Murdoch end up in the middle of all this?

It turns out that Mr. Murdoch’s expanding television empire began managing the most popular station in Georgia last year just as tensions were building over the station’s supposed support for the opposition to President Mikheil Saakashvili, whose critics say he is not the democrat he has claimed to be.

When the president accused the station of fomenting a coup and padlocked its doors, Mr. Murdoch was caught up in the convoluted alliances that have long played out in this region.

As a result, Mr. Murdoch’s News Corporation has found itself going up against Georgia’s president, a friend of Mr. Murdoch’s own friends in the White House. And that could conceivably wind up having an impact on a much larger game, the competition between the United States and Russia in the Caucasus.

Mr. Murdoch has publicly upbraided Mr. Saakashvili, who the administration had thought represented a new generation of democratically oriented leaders in the former Soviet republics. ...

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