Fady Asly, Chairman of the Board at the International Chamber of Commerce in Georgia has addressed Prime Minister of Georgia, with the open letter, underlining the “responsibility to warn foreign businesses of the risks associated with doing business in Georgia”.
“If I, the Chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce in Georgia don’t feel safe or confident to invest in my own country how can I encourage any foreign investor to do so?”, he wrote. Read full text bellow:
OPEN LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER OF GEORGIA H.E. MAMUKA BAKHTADZE
March 22, 2019
Dear Prime Minister,
We were expecting to discuss with you and with your government the pressure on businesses, an issue that was put on the Agenda of the Investors Council scheduled for March 26; the Investors Council Secretariat informed us on March 21 that the meeting was postponed till further notice.
Considering the seriousness and urgency of the situation and the importance of several issues that are having a dramatic impact on the business and investment climates in the country, including the unrelenting pressure from government on many businesses we feel compelled to send you this open letter.
I will start with some historical facts since history teaches us how to handle problems would they occur again.
Our company Agritechnics started its operations in Georgia in 1996 that is 23 years ago, as the major importer and distributor of food products in the country and in the region; Ironically though the first time I came in person to Georgia was two years later in 1998 because of government pressure; the Ministry of State Security had jailed one of our foreign employees accusing him of “Intention to smuggle bananas”, they had also sealed our warehouses and transferred 400 thousand Dollars from our bank account to the budget.
This attack was a coordinated effort between the Ministry of State Security and one of our competitors.
I did solve the problem, I freed our employee, I unsealed our warehouses and got back our money, I didn’t do that by bribing anyone, I did it by fighting fiercely the Ministry of State Security’s unlawful actions, with the support of the US Embassy in Tbilisi and the US Administration in Washington.
For the past 21 years I had to fight against every single government in power, since each one of them tried to stop our business, cripple us or harm us a way or another or harm a member or another of our business organization.
In November 1998, and based on a request from the former US Ambassador to Georgia Kenneth Yallowitz, I had the honor to co-found the American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia and to chair it for 7 consecutive years; since 2006 and till date I have the honor to chair the International Chamber of Commerce in Georgia.
The aim of establishing the American Chamber of Commerce and the International Chamber of Commerce was to protect the interests of US, foreign and local businesses as stated in the by-laws of those organizations.
Protecting the rights and interests of foreign and local businesses and fighting against their harassment and against corruption, gained me a lot of enemies over the years; I will briefly mention that during the Shevardnadze’s era and beside jailing one of our employees as mentioned earlier, in 1999, another of our employees was murdered in an armed attack on one of our vehicles.
My deputy was kidnapped for several months in 2001, a year later, in 2002 our offices in Tbilisi were bombed, in 2003 our offices in Poti were burnt to the ground, and I will spare you the details of how many times we were punitively audited and harassed or how many times our staff were mugged at gunpoint.
In 2004 my offices were twice shot at with machine guns, my security went to the police both times to file a report and submit the video-tapes from our security cameras, showing the cars that were involved in the shooting, however they were told each time that I was the one who had shot at my own offices to bring attention to myself; those shootings were never investigated.