Sponsored Posts, 14 Trolls and Governmental and Pro-Kremlin Actors against Khazaradze-Japaridze

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On January 12th, the Tbilisi City Court heard the controversial money laundering case against the founders of TBC Bank – Mamuka Khazaradze and Badri Japaridze. The court found Khazaradze and Japaridze guilty of fraud; however, they were not put to jail since the statute of limitations were passed by the time of the ruling. During the trial and after the announcement of the verdict, a coordinated campaign to discredit Mamuka Khazaradze and Badri Japaridze was launched on social media, pointing at the alleged fraud committed by Khazaradze-Japaridze. The messages were spread by a number of actors, including pro-government experts, pro-Kremlin actors, anti-opposition and pro-Alt-info Facebook pages, and fake accounts. Not to mention, posts about Khazaradze published by anti-opposition pages were sponsored.

At the same time, pro-Russian actors revived the topic of Anaklia Deep Sea Port, arguing that disrupting the project was the right decision since it posed a challenge to Georgia’s security.

  • Pro-Governmental experts: Ghia Abashidze, Zurab Kadagidze, Levan Nikoleishvili, Zaal Anjaparidze, Edisher Gvenetadze, Davit Kartvelishvili;
  • Member of Tbilisi City Municipal Assembly from the ruling GD party: Vladimer Bojadze.
  • Media outlets with pro-governmental editorial policy: Imedi, PosTV, For.ge, reportiori.ge, kvira.ge, ongo.ge.
  • Pro-Kremlin actors: Zura Makharadze (Conservative Movement), Giorgi Kardava (Conservative Movement), Irakli Jankarashvili (Tvalsazrisi).
  • Facebook pages discrediting the opposition and supportive of the GD party: “Simartlis Droa,” “Mikheil Ukrainologi,” “Provocateurs”, “Political Absurd,” “Political Satire,” “Archive.”
  • Pro-Kremlin and anti-Western platforms: Tvalsazrisi.ge, Facebook pages: “Sarkazmelebi,” “Political Satire.”

“Myth Detector” also identified 14 fake accounts, that have been leaving discrediting comments about Mamuka Khazaradze and Badri Japaridze on the Facebook pages of various news agencies.

Messages

  • Mamuka Khazaradze and Badri Japaridze are swindlers/usurers/immoral capitalists

Imedi TV and POSTV covered the lawsuit with identical headlines: “Older Fraudsters”. On January 12th, pro-government news agencies For.ge, reportiori.ge, kvira.ge, ongo.ge published a comment by Vladimer Bojadze, a member of the Tbilisi City Assembly from the Georgian Dream party, in which he called Mamuka Khazaradze and Badri Japaridze “Old fraudsters.”

In the article authored by Irakli Jankarashvili, a supporter of the Patriots Alliance, Tvalsazrisi.ge labelled not only Khazaradze-Japaridze as fraudsters but also other members of the Lelo party. In particular, the article titled “Leaders of the “Old Fraudsters’ party” manipulate with the most pressing concerns of IDPs” was directed at Grigol Gegelia, a member of the” Lelo “party.

Apart from Vladimer Bozhadze, the ruling was used by other pro-governmental experts and pro-Russian actors to discredit opposition politicians, claiming that Lelo leaders were dressed in “mantle of fraud.” In the newspaper “Asaval-Dasavali,” journalist Jaba Khubua wrote that Khazaradze’s fate did not even allow him to spend time in prison with dignity and punished him with the burden to carry the name of a swindler for life. Giorgi Kardava, one of the founders of the Alt-Info’s “Conservative Movement,” asserted that Mamuka Khazaradze, as a “capitalist of classical understanding for the post-Soviet space,” had no moral criteria for evaluation. Posts with the same content were published on Facebook by pro-governmental pages, as well as Alt-Info supporters and Facebook pages linked to pro-Kremlin actors.


Newspaper “Asaval-Dasavali,” January 17-23

Posts with similar content were published by the Alt-info linked Facebook page “Sarkrazmelebi”. In one of the posts, a photo of Khazaradze and Japaridze is accompanied by a description – “older fraudsters,” while in another post, Mamuka Khazaradze is referred to as a swindler and a usurer. Posts with similar content were published by the anti-opposition pages such as “Simartlis Droa“, “Mikheil Ukrainologi,” “Provocateurs,” “Enemies of the Country” and “Political Satire“, as well as the Facebook page iNews, which periodically publishes posts supportive of the incumbent government, in addition to sharing pro-Kremlin and homophobic content. The anti-opposition page “Political Absurd” created an event titled “Let Khazaradze-Japaridze-Tsereteli lend us 17 million”, the description of which notes “Please give us 17 million for good purposes and then forgive us.”

The posts of “Political Satire” and “Political Absurd” about Mamuka Khazaradze are sponsored. The fee for advertised posts of “Political Absurdity” was paid by Natela Kiladze. Notably, Natela Kiladze also pays money to sponsor posts of the Facebook page ‘Georgian Journalism Jems/Journalist Fails,’ which is specifically created to discredit Georgian journalists. Posts from the archive are also sponsored.

In addition, pro-governmental experts Gia Abashidze and Levan Nikoleishvili argued that the release of Mamuka Khazaradze and Badri Japaridze from the court due to the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution indicated that the Georgian judiciary was independent. A post with the same content was published by the anti-opposition Facebook page “Political Absurd.”

  •   Anaklia Deep Sea Port poses a challenge to Georgia’s security

Amid the ongoing court proceedings and the announcement of the verdict, pro-Kremlin actors again invoked the issue of the Anaklia Deep Sea port. Among them were Zura Makharadze, chairman of the Alt-Info’s “Conservative Movement,” and Irakli Jankarashvili, author at “Tvalsazrisi” and a supporter of the Patriots Alliance of Georgia. They argued that the project posed a significant challenge to the country’s security, that its construction was only in the interest of the Americans, and therefore disrupting the project was the right decision.

Zura Makharadze, Conservative Movement: “In order not to allow Americans to settle in the Black Sea, Russia took Crimea from Ukraine…If someone told Khazaradze – I’m sorry about your business startup [Anaklia Port], but you’ll have to stop because it will damage the security of our country – then it was a right thing to say.”

Irakli Jankarashvili, Author at Tvalsazrisi: “This idiotic argument that apparently the port of Anaklia was our security guarantor and savior?! The second nonsense: it was claimed that certain types of warships would also be accepted in the port, as if NATO or American ships would bring us security! I do not know about security, but you can be sure that it would turn the region into a barrel full of gunpowder! If Ivanishvili really told Khazaradze to stop the project, then he was right, and if Khazaradze thinks we are fools, he is mistaken, but he is a fraudster, and he will do anything to pursue his interests, like when he started TBC and robbed the whole country!”

On January 12th, Jankarashvili’s opinion piece was published by the Facebook account “Political Satire”.

The Anaklia Deep Sea Port project, which was to provide Georgia with a transit hub function between China and Central Asia on the one hand and Europe on the other, would thus reduce Russia’s influence in certain Central Asian and Eastern European countries. The project has been targeted by Kremlin-linked and pro-Russian actors in the past as well. For more, see our articles:

The Anaklia Deep Sea Port project was halted in 2020 when the Georgian government announced that it was terminating the agreement with Anaklia Development Consortium due to the non-fulfillment of its obligations under the investment agreement.

Fake Accounts

During the court sessions and after the announcement of the verdict, fake accounts became active on social media, calling the founders of TBC Bank “swindlers” and “fraudsters,” demanding the harshest punishment possible. The trolls left discrediting and insulting comments on the news published on the Facebook pages of the following news agencies, Radio Liberty, Interpressnews.ge, GPB, and Rustavi 2. One of the fake accounts also made a xenophobic comment about Mamuka Khazaradze:

Crypto Miner: “Why does this Armenian speak on behalf of the Georgian people?”

“Myth Detector” identified 14 fake accounts involved in the discreditation campaign:

  • 3 out of 14 fake accounts steal the identity of other people, and 11 hide their personal information;
  • 3 out of 14 fake accounts indicate a different name in the profile URL link;
  • 1 account is newly created;
  • 4 out of 14 accounts like pages related to Shalva Ramishvili;
  • 1 out of 14 fake accounts (Gela Mgeladze), who commented on InterpressNews’ posts, was repeatedly involved in various discrediting campaigns;

Trolls that steal the identity of others

  1. Giorgi Pirveli
Steals the identity of the vkontakte.ru user Максим Величко. Left a comment on a news article of the GPB.
2. ნინი ნინი[Nini Nini] Uses a photo of Turkish actors Bergüzar Korel and Halit Ergenç as a profile picture.
3. Goga Gogava
Uses a photo of an American actor, Johnny Depp, as a profile picture. Shared the posts of “PosTV” and “Mikheil Ukrainologist”,

Left a comment on the Interpressnews’ post.

Trolls that conceal their identity

4. Monte Kristo
Conceals the identity. Left a comment on a news article by Radio Liberty.
5. Smit Smit
Conceals the identity. Left a comment on a post by Radio Liberty.
6. Dali Dali Dali Dali
Conceals the identity. Left a comment on a post by Radio Liberty. The profile link indicates the name nina.karagianni.
7. ილო ილია[Ilo Ilia]
Conceals the identity. The account is newly created and has 5 friends. Left a comment on a post by Radio Liberty.
8. Gela Mgeladze
Conceals the identity. “Myth Detector” revealed that this account was previously involved in campaigns to discredit Nino Lomjaria, Nika Melia, journalists and the election protest. Left a comment on the interpressnews.ge’s post.
9. Lingua Aliena

Conceals the identity. The profile link indicates the name reklama.reklamebi. Left a comment on the Interpressnews.ge post.
10. Crypto Miner
Conceals the identity. Likes the following pages: Mikheil Ukrainologi, POSTV Analytics, Shalva Ramishvili. Left a comment on a post by Interpressnews.
11. Maiko Mako
Conceals the identity. Likes the following pages: Mikheil Ukrainologi, POSTV Analytics, Shalva Ramishvili. Left a comment on a post by Interpressnews.
12. Niko Polo
Conceals the identity. Likes pages: POSTV, POSTV – ანალიტიკა

Left a comment on a post by Interpressnews.

13. საქართველო თბილისი [Georgia Tbilisi]
Conceals the identity and has only one friend. Left a comment on a post by Interpressnews.
14. არ ბი  [Ar Bi]
Conceals the identity. Left a comment on a post by Interpressnews.

Discreditation Campaigns against TBC and Mamuka Khazaradze

Mamuka Khazaradze and TBC Bank have become targets of coordinated discreditation campaigns in the past as well. One of the fake Facebook accounts, which was later deleted by Facebook, was an artificially generated Giorgi Agapishvili’s Blog, which was quoted by traditional media as a real person against Mamuka Khazaradze.

For more details about the past discreditation campaigns against Khazaradze and the TBC Bank, see:

Topic: Politics
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iNews

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Tvalsazrisi.ge

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Alt-Info
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