New Anaklia - which is on the land taken away from the people

“Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.” Bastia Frederick Claude, a French economist (1801-1850)

Anaklia infrastructure development and rehabilitation plan was announced by President Mikheil Saakashvili on September 8, last year. He promised locals that within 2-3 years Anaklia would be one of the best sea resort. Those Spanish architects will work on “New Anaklia” project, who designed Batumi new boulevard last year. According to the announcement of President of Georgia yacht-club, suspension bridge, boulevard and some other new infrastructure were planed to be built. However, no one among the residents of Anaklia, could have imagined that the project would had been realized at the expenses of locals own property.

Who owns land in Anaklia?

After President’s visit in Anaklia, it has started the process of transferring locals owned lands on the balance of Ministry of Economy. Several methods were employed for land confiscation.

1. From local residents, who profited by land for years, but had not registered it, the state seized the land easily. The simple argument worked: “You have been benefiting from the land for a long period of time without paying anything for it and now the state needs the land”. However, according to current legislation, if the benefiter from the state land has made use of it for 15 years, he/she had right to legalize the land. The locals of Anaklia did not know about the law allowing them to legalize the land, so government job was facilitated. As a result, the lands of locals used by them during the whole life transferred to the Ministry of Economy.

2. To those land-owners, who had ownership certificates issued during the presidency of Shevardnadze, the state pointed to the mistakes made during the land reform and as illegally issued lands were taken back form them to the state. Kakhaber Jolokhava, the head of Zugdidi department of Public Register, explained that in this case the state took back his own lands, issued illegally. Moreover, the owners of such lands have been summoned to the prosecutor’s office and threatened for illegal appropriation of the lands. 

3. From the rightful owners of the land, who had inherited the property or purchased and registered it properly, the lands were taken only for the reason that they had not provided necessary documents in the Public Registry on time. But those who fulfilled all requirements, somehow, decided to give their property as a gift to the state.

"Land ceased, but can not do anything"

The land of Anaklia inhabitant Tornike Bubuteishvili was registered in the Public Registry and he had property certificate, but his land appeared within the area allocated for implementation of the new project. People were told that their lands were within so called “Cover” region and the state has appropriated them. (“Cover” – in Georgian called “zeddeba” as well – is the territory, which does not fit within the borders, given in the owner’s land plot and borders the state land, or the state and private lands are within the same boundaries)

In the part of confiscated land of Bubuteishvili, the construction company “Dagi” is building 5-story hotel. On the other part of the land, Anaklia new boulevard will be constructed. Despite the fact, that the construction works are already started, no one has offered any compensation to Bubuteishvili. Tornike Bubuteishvili avoids contacts with the media – “You know, they seized the lands, but can not do anything, I was told to be quiet” – he says. Privately he told that he was threatened – “they took forests and agricultural land but who cares, they took the land where I lived. No one has given anything and I am expecting nothing. They told that if I say something, I should not forget that they know that my child lives in Tbilisi”.  Bubuteishvili thinks that whole village will be in the same situation soon – “Merabishvili and Adeishvili are visiting village every week and they are controlling everything personally. (The frequent visits of Merabishvili and Adeishvili were confirmed by workers employed in the construction of hotel) I am destroyed and can not say anything. It will be worse if I say something”. Bubuteishvili says.

“Given as a present, but by force”

Many locals in Anaklia suffer from the similar problems as Bubuteishvili does. You can hear many similar histories. Some legal owners of the land, after visiting Public Registry, have found that their lands had been transferred to the state. Legal owners decided to get back their lands but somehow, after some time, all of them changed their minds and they gave their property to the state as a present. No one talks about the issue with media but Marina Sordia.

Marina Sordia’s ownership certificate was issued by Public Registry based on Accept/Receiving Certificate N50 and Zugdidi State Archive Note N393 in 2007. Despite the fact, after 2 years when a new plan of President Saakashvili was announced in 2009, her land was passed to the government.

During two years Public Register issued 2 certificates of ownership for the same land on two different agents at the same time.

According to the lawyer of the non-profit organization  “Young Association of Lawyers”  Tamar Korzaia:
-“There is a law which regulates such cases of dispossession of Property, called the process of expropriation. But in this case it is not expropriation. There are some exceptions in Constitution when government projects like new railway, communication line and etc. is planned to build on the territory belonging to residents.

As mentioned above government leaves rights to dispossess property but such decision has to be resolute by President and then sent to the Court where additional procedures like expert estimation, auditing in order to make compensation payment, should be carried out.
Based on the examples above one can say that this is violation of property rights”

Similar situation happened to Marina’s neighbors. They asked Zugdidi department of Public Registry ownership documents, but no reply. -“I think that for Registration department it was a good example not to issue 2 certificate of property to different persons at the same time” says Marina Sordia.

Public Registration department explained to us, like other people, that the territories within the area of “Cover” are the property of the state without giving any legal explanations.

At the beginning, before the seizure of  # 211 plot, Marina Sordia gave her other plot as a present to government.

“On the territory, where a new hotel is planned to be built now, we had 700 sq m of land where my son wanted to build his apartment. When construction works has started on our territory, no one asked anything. I went to workers to find out what they were doing, they told me that they had right to build what they wanted and sent me to find the answers somewhere else. After that I wrote a letter to Head of Municipal department of Zugdidi to inform him about the illegal activity on my territory and asked him for help. After several days I was called from public prosecutor's office and asked to visit the office. Prosecutor, Gia Berishvili, told that this territory was illegally given and had to be returned back to the state or otherwise I would have problems with other plots. He meant plot N211, which was seized later. I did know what to do, I was alone and frightened. I could not keep control anymore and said –“If Rose Revolution Government is in such a poor situation that it needs support from a person like me, widow and unfortunate woman, hell, take it as a present ”  Says Sordia.

According to Sordia, she was forced in Prosecutor office to sign the document allowing her property to be transferred to government. She refused to sign such document in Prosecutor office but after some terror she signed the document in Zugdidi department of Public Register.

-“Which normal man will give his/her property to the government as a present? I am widow with burned house and I would have given them my property as a present, would have I? But I was frightened and forced to do it because I had no any guarantee that they would not do to my children what they promised and what guarantee I have now?”- told Sordia.
According to Sordia she was promised from government that she would not have any problem with other part of land but the promise was not kept and she was left without land. “Robbed by government” this is how she calls herself. Sordia with her neighbors from village plans to go to the court to protect their rights. She gave the letter personally to the President of Georgia when he was in Anaklia, explaining every details of her story, bur no reply.
-“I am not going to give up, what was given to the government as a present by force I will not return I know, but I will fight till the death for another plot”, declared Sordia.

-“if she can prove that  she was forced to give her land as a present and it was done without her wish, in that case she should manage to get her property back, but under current court system how perspective is this way is another question, but this is the only legal way to do it”. Says Tamar Korzaia.

Misappropriation of Territory

After the Head of Zugdidi department of Public Register, Kakhaber Jolakhava, directed us to Public Register press agency to find answers, we got the letter from them telling that:
-“Marina Sordia’s case regarding to registration procedures was stopped because she failed to bring all document in the period given to her”.
But according to Marina Sordia she was not informed or noticed about the cancelation of registration procedures, moreover, she found about the fact when she went to public registration department to take document of her property, after her neighbors appeared in the similar problem. Marina Sordia provided Zugdidi department of Public Register with the following documents in order to oppose the cancelation of registration procedures: certificate of property issued on September 3, 2007 by Zugdidi department of Public Register, measured technical map of territory matched with soft version, act of accepting/receiving and note #393 from Zugdidi Archive.
-“They are lying in Public Register: I brought all documents three times. They told me that it does not matter, whatever I brought, that I could not do anything. They were telling that I was oppressed by the government the most, that I gave one plot as a present in order not to take another one, but they seized the second one as well”, says Sordia.

The Ministry of Economy and the secret Administrative - Legal act

Resident Marina Sordia, along with her neighbors in the similar situation, in the case of compensation, had no objection against land alienation. That is why we tried to find out why she did not get compensation according to the current law and during 3 months we were searching legal documents based on which private lands were transferred to the state. We were looking for  answers in Zugdidi department of Public Register, Ministry of economy, also in Municipality of Zugdidi and in Procures Office. We asked Municipality of Zugdidi to give us all resolutions and orders, regarding to Anaklia issued from 2008 up to now. But we could not manage to find any legal basis for transferring private properties to the state.

We tried to find the answers to our questions at the Ministry of Economy, Zugdidi Sakrebulo, Anaklia town council, Public Registry and Public Prosecutor’s Office. We have asked for all decrees and orders of Zugdidi Sakrebulo relating Anaklia since 2008, but they did not contain any legal basis for transferring the private property to the state ownership.

In reply to our letter, the Regional Department of Property Registration and Privatization of Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti wrote: “”No application about transferring the land plot in Anaklia from the private property to state ownership has been received by the Department and therefore, no administrative-legal act is issued”.
Such an ambiguous reply by the Ministry of Economic Development proves that neither Sordia, nor the residents of her village have transferred the land to the state willfully and second, if this can be considered the reply of the Ministry of Economics, it means that like the Public Registry, whose only legal argument for deprivation of the land is ‘overlapping’ of land plots, it, too, has never issued any legal act and accordingly, the land has never been transferred to the state property on an official basis.
If none of the state organs admits the fact of deprivation of the land plots and moreover, they are unaware of the problem, the basis for deprivation seems even more ambiguous. David Tskhadaia, Anaklia governor says: “I know everything about the problems of these people. The Elections are over and the problems seem to be solved gradually. However, I do not know if these people are given compensation or any funds.”

New Anaklia and ignoring the principles of liberal economy
According to the project, a yacht club, pendant bridge, boulevard, hotels and new infrastructure are to be built in Anaklia. As mentioned above, there has been a 360-meter-long bridge (connecting Anaklia or Ganmukhuri) and youth camp opened in Anaklia, and two hotels are under fevered construction. The building company “Sun”, the tender winner is building a 10-storey hotel. As they told us at the company, they bought the land from the state and are building their own hotel. A part of the land bought by “Sun” was the property of Marina Sordia. If the land was really sold, why this happened by diregarding its former owner, or why its former owner received no proper compensation? – Today, none of the state organs have the reply to this question.
As for the land plot, which was taken away from Tornike Bubuteishvili, it is exploited by “Dagi” Ltd. to build a 5-storey hotel to be delivered to the client on August 7 of the current year. In addition, “Dagi” is building a hotel in Anaklia and this is the company, who is the winner of many significant projects in Georgia. Furnishing the refugees’ houses in Poti, reconstruction of stadium “Torpedo” in Kutaisi and Kutaisi Opera Theatre are only some projects, entrusted to “Dagi”. This is what the material “Millions at the expense of the contributions to the national barrel” by Maia Metskhvarishvili, a journalist of the “New Newspaper” reads: “On march 14, 2008, a couple of months before the Parliamentary Elections, “Dagi” Ltd. contributed to the National Movement 20.000 Gel, and on December 21, 2007, a couple of weeks before the Presidential Elections, the same party assisted the governing part by 40.000 Gel.”
It is “Dagi” building a hotel in Anaklia under the order of Zugdidi Municipality town council and the funds of construction are covered by the local budget, accordingly.
In the words of Tamar Kordzaia, a lawyer, legally, the town council can build such a hotel, but she would like to underline one surroundings: “If this hotel remains in the ownership of the town council, the income received from it should be registered under the budget, as auxiliary independent income.”
“A town council is entitled to be engaged in auxiliary economic activity, but the hotel business is not the auxiliary economic activity, but a pure entrepreneurial one. The given fact is a rude intervention of the state in business and contradicts the principles of liberal economy and the act presented by the President’s representatives a few months ago. I think the town council will hand down the built hotel to some investor, who will operate the hotel and most probably share the profit with the town council,” – said David Narmania, an expert in economic issues.
The fact of “Dagi” building a 5-storey hotel under the order of the town council was confirmed by Gogi Gulordava, “Dagi” founder and Tengiz Kobalia, head of the Department of Economics and Infrastructure of Zugdidi town council during the interview with us. However, David Tskhadaia, a governor of Anaklia, gave a different answer to us. In his words, “Dagi” undertakes the construction activities under the order of the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, and building the hotel is the order of the given Ministries to “Dagi”. “As far as I know, the building should be accomplished at the beginning of August,” - said the governor. Then we asked him about the order given to “Dagi” by the town council. He replied “I know nothing about it. I have learned that the construction activities are being accomplished by the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Internal Affairs”. As mentioned above, the hotel workers also confirm frequent visits of Adeishvili and Merabishvili to the building site. The President plans to inaugurate the hotel on August 8, i.e. at the two years anniversary of the war with Russia.
The fact of the Ministry issuing an order to build a hotel in Anaklia is not confirmed at the Ministry of Justice. As Khatuna Iosava, head of the press-center explains, - “the fact of someone controlling the hotel building and his frequent resultant visits to the building site does not mean he is a client. I can state with all my responsibility that the Ministry of Justice does not build a hotel in Anaklia.” As for the press-center of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, they have not replied to our request yet.
What kind of economic profit Anaklia will gain or how many new employees the “opening up of a new resort zone” will produce after the accomplishment of Anaklia project is the question the town board of Anaklia is unaware of.
This article has been produced within the project "Investigative Journalism in Samegrelo" in terms of a project "Strengthening the Media's Role as a watchdog institution in Georgia", funded by the European Union and implemented by Eurasia Partnership Foundation.

The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of the newspaper “Tavisupali sitkva"("Free Speech”) and cannot be taken as to reflect the views of the European Union and Eurasian Partnership Foundation.

Eliso Janashia
Paata Lagvilava