Rony Fuchs fraud trial breach of international law

By Jennifer Lipman, January 12, 2011

An Israeli businessman is on trial in Tbilisi in a fraud case which a high-profile British lawyer has called a breach of Georgia's obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC, who is working on the case, said: "In its pursuit of Rony Fuchs, Georgia has acted in a manner contrary to [its] obligations under international law.”

In March 2010 Mr Fuchs and his business partner won a £62 million payout from the Georgian government for a breached agreement on the construction of an oil pipeline.

The Georgian government has not paid the sum, which with interest has now risen to more than £64 million, but is instead alleged to have set up a sting in order to arrest Mr Fuchs on bribery charges.

Mr Fuchs was caught on camera last October at a meeting in Turkey discussing making a deal to settle the payout.

But his lawyers have argued that this occurred only after he was called to that meeting by the Georgian government, and that he was then invited to Georgia and arrested for bribery.

The case has prompted Israeli president Shimon Peres to discuss the matter directly with his Georgian counterpart, Mikheil Saakashvili.

Mr Robertson said the “deployment of secret surveillance” went against the ECHR’s privacy law.

Referring to a recent ECHR judgment on the use of evidence procured in this way, Mr Robertson said it could not be justified as it would put a fair trial at risk “from the outset”.

He added: “Any proposal of the Georgian government that Mr Fuchs…should be required to plead guilty to the bribery offence in order to secure [his] release from prison should be regarded as an act of the utmost bad faith and wholly inconsistent with Georgia's obligations under the European Convention.”

Last updated: 4:03pm, January 12 2011