Journalistic investigation

he information about using forged IDs in the 2008 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections and 2010 local self-governmental elections was received from different sources. However, the fraudulent scheme of using the ID Cards, which were forged in advance,
registering the ID numbers on the lists of the Central Election Commission of Georgia, bringing the citizens from different regions of Georgia to the constituencies (to avoid any awkward moments or any chance of being recognized), who agreed or were forced to agree to discharge their “duty” and vote with forged IDs at polling stations, was so well-developed that identifying it at the previous Election was virtually impossible.
for Poti, we received the information about using 3 thousand forged IDs. A mini-bus driver, who arrived from one of the regions of Georgia in the private conversation with us told us how he took strangers from one polling station to another on the day of Elections and witnessed how his passengers were given the ID Cards by some people.
Only one fact of fraudulence became known during the 2008 Parliamentary Elections, in particular, one of the observers of one of the organizations of Batumi “The Association for Independent Development and Human Rights Protection” fixed the elector appearing at the polling station with a forged ID. The elector fled soon after he was noticed. “An elector visiting the polling station heard his surname by chance (he was Moldovan and had a strange surname), which another elector used to introduce himself to the registrar. He immediately approached the elector and inquired about his identity. As soon as he learned his name and surname, he indignantly addressed the citizen saying: “You are not my son… he is on board a ship at the moment, in a foreign country. I talked to him this morning on the telephone,” after these words, he addressed to the people around him: “Help me, please. This is not my son, but has my son’s ID card in his hand”. However, with the assistance of the chairman of the electorate commission, the citizen having appeared to vote with somebody else’s ID card, was given the ID back, to which he had attached his own photo in lieu of the owner’s and he left. The personal number and other data on the ID coincided with those of the elector’s son. The citizen with the forged ID fled from the polling station and cooped”, – this is what Emzar Paksadze, the chairman of the organization recalls from the story told by his organization representative. Because of this fact, the organization filed a suit before the Public Prosecutor’s Office, but due to the absence of proper evidence, i.e. visual material, no investigation of the fact was ever initiated.
The use of forged IDs, as a successful method, was also the case during the local self-governmental elections in 2010.

The year of 2010. Local self-governmental Elections

The city of Poti, polling station #1, constituency #70

At the first glance, the process of election goes smooth. An elector appearing at the polling station at 12 p.m., after presenting his ID, gets a smooth registration by Mimoza Kurashvili, the registrar (who is the mother-in-law of Gocha Giorgadze, Chairman of the constituency commission) and nothing seems to be doubtful. The ID shows the personal number and other identifying data of the elector and is certified by the seal and signature of the then-time head of Poti Civil Registry Agency. The registrar is calmly looking for the right graph on the list and finds an already signed graph. This means that the elector has already voted at the polling station, or someone has signed his graph by mistake.
The registrar offers the elector to set his signature in the next graph of Ekaterine Chargazia and tries to give the explanation: “Ekaterine Chargazia seems to have set her signature in the wrong graph.” However, the registrar never thought of making a written remark in the records book about the confusion.
Gocha Giorgadze, the constituency chairman and Lali Pailodze, the secretary, show slight nervousness. They try to neutralize the situation and reply to the elector, even though the latter never inquired about the reason for the erroneous signature in his graph. He swiftly signs the next graph shown by the registrar, takes the ballot paper, votes and leaves. In the muddle, the observer manages to take a photo of the ID card with a photo on it.
Then, the observer of the Association for Independent Development and Human Rights Protection writes a letter of complaint though under the pressure, threat and insult by the constituency chairmen, and makes it clear that Zaza Chargazia, the ID owner, who must be living at Kostava street, No. 14/36, Poti, according to his ID Card, has not lived at this address for 3 years, and Zaza Chargazia living at the new address is a different person, but his ID card data are identical to those of the elector visiting the polling station; the elector at the polling station with Zaza Chargazia’s ID and real Zaza Chargazia are two different persons.
Zaza Chargazia’s forged ID Card. In the photo: the person at the polling station to vote with the forged ID Card, whose identity is not known at present
Zaza Chargazia told us that he really went to the polling station before 12 p.m. that day to vote and set his signature in the due graph. As for her sister, Ekaterine Chargazia, she had left for Tbilisi that day and did not vote. This naturally, makes the registrar’s categorical statement about Ekaterine Chargazia erroneously signing a different graph invalid. Zaza Chargazia’s mother recalls a visit of Mr. Goga Mikadze (the observer of The National Party polling station #1, wearing the badge certifying the same) in the afternoon to their place who asked for Zaza.
Zaza Chargazia says that he was called by Mikadze when he drove in the suburbs and asked him if he was at the polling station to vote. As for Mikadze, he did not remember the purpose of visiting Zaza Chargazia’s place or reason for his interest in Zaza’s presence at the constituency on the day of Election. Moreover, in the conversation with us he could not recall the Party of which he was the observer at the polling station on the day of Elections.
Chargazia himself could not hide his astonishment and resentment at learning that someone had used his vote. Virtually the exact copy of his ID Card (with the only difference in the photo and date of issue) held by the elector appearing at the polling station was issued on 10.11.2008 when the head of Poti Civil Registry Agency was Mr. Ucha Jguburia, while the real Zaza Chargazia’s ID Card was issued on 09.06.2004.
Real Zaza Chargazia’s ID card
The city of Poti, polling station #4, constituency #70
At about 1 p.m., at the polling station #4, the observer’s attention was drawn by four brand new IDs issued on the same day, 10.11.2008. The four electors appearing at the polling station, Giorgi Beraia (residing at: #7, Ingorokva street, Poti, according to his ID Card),Nodar Abkhazava (residing at: #18, Kalandarishvili street, Poti, according to his ID Card),Lasha Adamia (residing at: #35, Makalatia street, Poti, according to his ID Card) andGocha Alania (residing at: #63, Ingorokva street, Poti, according to his ID Card) voted at the polling station #4.
The observer of the Association for Independent Development and Human Rights Protection managed to take a photo of one of the elector’s, Giorgi Beraia’s ID. As for the other three IDs, it turned out impossible to take photo of them, as their owners could pass the voting procedure quite swiftly with the help of the registrar. On the other hand, the observer could take photos of the electors standing at the registration desk. When photographed, they showed certain agitation and hung their heads trying to hide their faces. Then, they passed all procedures hurriedly, voted and left the polling station hastily.
The signatures of the head of Agency on Giorgi Beraia’s ID (Personal No. 42001008495) and on Zaza Chargazia’s ID are similarly doubtful and by visual examination do not coincide with the genuine signature of Ucha Jguburia, the then-time head of the Public Registry Department.
The forged Giorgi Beraia’s ID Card presented by a citizen at the polling station. In the photo: citizen
having voted instead of another person by using the forged ID
At the address indicated in Giorgi Beraia’s ID Card, there lives a citizen Tinatin Beraia with her family. Tinatin said that Giorgi Beraia has never lived with them. Therefore, we could not find this citizen.
Beraia Giorgi 06.06.1983 P. Ingorokva (former Shaumian) street, #7
70.04 Akaki #44, Public school No. 1 (extract from the registration list published on the web-site of the Central Election Commission of Georgia).
We applied to Gizo Mchedlidze, the secretary of the Central Election Commission inquiring about the possible mechanisms for a non-existing citizen appearing on the list of the Central Election Commission of Georgia. “It is hard to maintain that there were fictitious people on the list. Registration of citizens is the competence of the civil registry. However, a person may not live at the registered address, like Giorgi Beraia in your example. Therefore, the family at #7 of Ingorokva street should apply to Poti Civil Registry Agency and ask to annul the invalid registration,” – said Mr. Mchedlidze. He contacted us several days after our interview and provided additional information about the citizen Giorgi Beraia. According to him, Giorgi Beraia is a real person, who was registered at #7 of Ingorokva street on August 25 of the current year and was registered at a new address (#9, Ostrovsky lane) on September 14 of the current year.
This piece was information has made it clear that Giorgi Beraia is a real person. However, after making some examination, it turned out that some data on the ID Card of the voter visiting the polling station and those on the ID Card of Giorgi Beraia residing at #9, Ostrovsky lane were identical (in particular, the personal numbers, addresses, names and surnames, dates of birth). The difference between them was seen in the dates of registration and issue and photos. The man voting at polling station #4 on May 30 and the man really living at the mentioned address are not the same.
Real Giorgi Beraia’s ID Card
During our visit to the Beraias’ family, we learned that when applying for the ID Card after finishing his school studies, instead of Bodreli street, Giorgi Beraia was registered at the address in Igorokva street where his cousins lived by Poti Civil Registry Agency. Later, the family sold the house and moved to the present address. In 2008, Giorgi Beraia’s ID expired. In August of the current year when Giorgi Beraia applied for the new ID, which he needed to submit for the new job, he applied to the Civil Registry in writing to fix his real address in the Card. However, the Agency made a mistake and copied the old address. Giorgi Beraia was forced to apply to the Civil Registry again in writing asking to fix his real address in the ID.
As for the Elections, the Beraias’ family generally votes at polling station #9. Giorgi Beraia did not vote in the self-governmental Elections, as his ID had expired and besides, he never votes in the Elections for his personal considerations.
After examining the address of the second elector, Nodar Abkhazava, it turned out that the citizen really lives at the address indicated in the ID and on the registration list, but he is aged and blind. At present, he lives with his sister. As he said, he cannot move and did not vote in the Elections. The man visiting the polling station to vote and the Nodar Abkhazava, who really lives at the indicated address, are different persons. It means that somebody else voted with as if Nodar Abkhazava’s ID Card.
The third elector, Lasha Adamia, having appeared at the polling station, as his ID shows, lives at #35, Makalatia street, Poti. The examination revealed that the Adamias’ family really lived at this address for years. Approximately 3 years before these Elections, they moved to another district. At present, Lasha Adamia temporarily lives at his aunt’s apartment in Didgori (former Bebeli) street. The doubt of the person voting at the polling station as Lasha Adamia not being real Lasha Adamia and using a forged ID was proved at the first sight of the real Lasha Adamia. The real Lasha Adamia did not look like any of the three electors photographed by the observer at the polling station, and instead of 10.11.2008 as the date of issue of his ID, the ID of real Lasha Adamia clearly showed 24.12.2009. Lasha Adamia objected to being photographed or interviewed, but recalled the Election’s day of May 30 in detail. As he said, he visited the polling station #4 before noon of the Election’s day and found that someone had already voted for him. His graph on the registration list was signed by someone. He asked for the explanation, but by chance he found that the registrar, who allowed some unknown person to vote for real Lasha Adamia, was his friend’s sister. So, for the sake of friendship, Lasha Adamia did not go on with the argument and left the polling station.
The ID Card of Gocha Alania, who also appeared at the polling station to vote, was issued on 10.11.2008. This voter too, behaved like the other two – presented his ID Card to the registrar, voted and left. As our further investigation made it clear, the Gocha Alania, living at the address indicated on the ID, never voted that day and is none of the three electors in the photo. As the real Gocha Alania said, he had not voted in the elections for some years.
The persons have come to the polling station to vote instead of Nodar Abkhazava, Lasha Adamia and Gocha Alania
Nodar Abkhazava, who is blind, lives with his sister and cannot move alon
Gocha Alania, who did not vote in the Elections, either
The measures taken by the Prosecutor General’s Office
Some days after the Elections, the observing organization, together with the photo material, filed a suit about the mentioned facts (with the exception of one fact, as it was not examined by the moment) before the Prosecutor General’s Office. The Prosecutor’s Office keeps silent to present. Nobody was interrogated and the questions put after revealing the miserable facts were never answered: who issued the forged IDs? How the people with forged IDs and false addresses appeared on the lists of the Central Election Commission of Georgia? Who and where developed this criminal plan and where was it developed? Which state bodies, public or private entities took part in developing and implementing this plan? And so on.
The Civil Registry blocks the public information
We started our survey at Poti Public Registry Agency and asked for the names of the citizens with their IDs issued on 10.11.2008. The Agency employee fetched the 2008 registry and read 13 names of the citizens. None were the ones of the incident at the polling station on the day of Elections. Then, we asked for the same information in writing, but the Agency said no. The head of the Agency, Bakur Tsiramua was quite cordial with us and said: “Come on! Why this? You know the way the elections are held, don’t you!” Such a “didactic” reply caused our astonishment, as we never mentioned the word “elections” with them.
The National Civil Registry Agency refused to consider even our administrative suit, explaining that a citizen’s name and surname are the confidential information, as they may be used to identify a person. Lawyer Kakha Sopromadze explains that this is absurd, as with such logics, the telephone books or election lists and the like materials must also be deemed confidential. He says that only the name and surname of a person do not contain the information to identify a person.
Whose signatures appear on the forged IDs?
Poti Public Registry Agency was headed by Ucha Jguburia from May of 2008 to January of 2009. He told us that the signatures to the doubtful ID Cards are not his and are forged.
“It is true they had tried hard to make the signatures similar to mine, but I state with full responsibility that this is not my signature. This fraud is so clear that no specialist is needed. The crime is seen with a naked eye. The paper used to print the ID Cards is special. It is called a strict reporting form and cannot be forged. Attaching a photo to somebody else’s ID is a criminal action.
When I headed the Agency, the procedure was as follows: I received a ready ID Card with the photo attached to it. I attached the hologram to the photo, printed a Form 1 from the computer, examined if the photo from the computer corresponded to the one I had in my hands, signed the Card and laminated it. Generally, this paper and hologram are deemed impossible to forge. Anyway, I think these forged IDs are made with the Photoshop software with the computer, but I am not ultimately sure.
The strict reporting form was kept in my safe and only I had a key to it. When I was on leave or in other urgent cases the key was kept with the person acting as the Head of the Agency (mostly, with Marine Gujabidze and only rarely, with some other person). I always used to make an official statement in such cases. This can be examined, as the head office must have these records kept.”
Ucha Gujabidze recalls that for 10 months since the date of his assignment he never had a leave and never gave the key to anyone. Therefore, he excludes the possibility of someone taking the strict reporting forms for ID Cards from his safe during his office term. He is sure the forger can be found, if there is a will and sufficient effort. He illustrated his signature on the empty piece of paper:
Ucha Jguburia’s real signature
Role of Poti Regional Commission in the fraudulent plan
The chairman of constituency #70 in Poti, Zaal Kuchukhidze, who had worked in this post since the Rose Revolution through the 2010 self-governmental Elections, after the Elections was promoted to the position of trust at Poti Marine Port. “I am not a public officer any more and I am not obliged to answer your questions. Anyway, I could answer them, but I have no time”, – this was the end of our one-month-long trial to receive the answers to the following questions: on May 30, the day of the self-governmental elections, why did not he allow the observer at the polling station to work trouble-free? Why did he threaten the observer to drive him away of the polling station if he dared to write a complaint? Why did he try to defend the chairman and registrar of the polling station so selflessly and did not try to examine and answer any of the complaints? Why did he spend almost all day at polling station #1 when 31 polling stations operated in Poti? And so on.
Was Kuchukhidze aware of the forged ID Cards? It is difficult to answer this question unequivocally. However, his behavior casts doubt on his impartiality: in response to the observer’s trial to examine a doubtful ID during voting at polling station #1 he obstinately objected to photographing the ID. First, he covered the ID put on the table with his body so that only his back was shot by the camera, with a loud cry seized the ID from the table the observer was going to photograph and applied to the ID’s holder with the following words: “Why did you give him your ID? You should have torn it over his head!”- and personally accompanied the elector from the polling station.
Every time the situation was aggravated at the polling station, the chairman of constituency became agitated and made a phone call obviously bringing somebody up to date.
The chairman of constituency does not allow the observer to photograph the doubtful ID Card
During the discussion of the complaints at the constituency session, he opposed the observers of polling station #1 and never examined the doubtful addresses or persons. Moreover, he forced the author of the complaints to leave the session by force of the police “for violating the regulation” aiming at concealing the evidence from the members of the commission. Then, he led the session as he wished to and made the commission consider the remained 7 complaints in a half an hour. The trial of the chairman of the constituency to neutralize the complaints first at the polling stations and then at the regional constituency, was successful.
Kuchukhidze will only agree to talk about the details of the day of the self-governmental elections on May 30, 2010 only in case the law machinery wishes to hear the answers from him.
What technical means could be employed to put the forged IDs on the lists of the Central Election Commission?
“The Central Election Commission has made important actions to identify and eliminate gaps in the electors’ database and to standardize and integrate the data with the Civil Registry Agency in improving the election lists. As a result, 117,556 semantic and 185,002 technical errors were corrected. Aiming at supporting the political parties, every Saturday, the Central Election Commission of Georgia held meetings with the participants of monitoring. It was for the first time the political parties financed by the state with 1.200.000 Gel to undertake monitoring have become the participants of the monitoring process (“General information of Elections”, source: the Central Election Commission of Georgia web-site).”
Different international and local NGOs also took part in monitoring, but how the fraudulent data appeared on the lists, which could have a decisive impact on the final outcome and presumably, there must have been numerous other frauds during the Elections is unclear.
“It is the fact that this crime is committed by an organized group, whose representatives are employed at different state bodies, e.g. public registry (which presumably issued the forged IDs and information), the Central Election Commission of Georgia (which presumably charged its employees forging the lists with applying a blind eye to any “special” happenings due to forging), as well as self-governmental bodies and electoral staffs, who had an access to the information about the electors (including their state of health, location, etc.) and ordinary citizens, who discharged the “duty” for different reasons (bamboozling, bribing, promises to release their relatives or close people from prisons or giving them jobs or promotion, etc.), thus committing the crime. Besides, significantly, such persons were granted the immunity”, – states Emzar Paksadze, the lawyer and Head of the Association for Independent Development and Human Rights Protection.
According to his words, the Public Prosecutor’s Office was obliged to start investigation and criminal prosecution of the criminals, but it never did. This is the sign of the authority having no power to identify and punish the guilty. “This makes us think that the authority favors criminals. Whereas the authority boasts its achievements in the fight against the crime and almost all of us are sure that nothing can happen in the dark of the security forces, there may appear an organized group, which may at minimum forge the lists all over the country and at maximum commit numerous concomitant crimes (malfeasance, forging documents, etc.). It is also significant that since the present government’s coming to the helm, despite the guidelines of different observing organizations and other entities, no person accused of so called “election crimes” has ever been punished,” – says Paksadze.
The self-governmental elections of 2010, despite the protest of NGOs and individual units of the opposing political parties, were declared democratic by the government and different international organizations.
“These Elections have shown obvious improvement and governmental effort to solve the problems arising in the process. Now, it is time to correct any existing gaps and make effective steps to overcome any expected deficiencies before the next elections,” – said Odry Glover, leader of OSCE/ODIHR mission for election observation the day following the Elections what became a considerable motif for the country’s government to declare the elections democratic and fair.
Eliso Janashia
Nino Tuntia