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Georgian court orders freeze of opposition billionaire's assets

TBILISI, January 25 (RIA Novosti) - A Georgian court ordered a freeze of the assets of Imedi television channel founded by opposition billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili, the court's press service said on Friday.

Patarkatsishvili is wanted in the Caucasus state for allegedly plotting a coup. The businessman has denied the accusation although admitted offering a large sum of money to a senior interior ministry official in a bid to secure police support for protesters.

"... given that Badri Patarkatsishvili is able to use his property to pursue his criminal plans, the court upheld prosecutors' demands and ordered the seizure of companies where he holds a stake," a Tbilisi City Court official said.

"An official statement on the matter will be made later," the official said.

Imedi's lawyer said all the TV company's assets have been frozen, but made no further comments on the court decision. "I would not like to comment on reasons behind the asset freeze until an official statement has been issued," Shalva Shavgulidze said.

Imedi's assets were already frozen on November 7, when the station's offices were raided amid mass street protests. Prosecutors said Patarkatsishvili used the channel to call for the overthrow of the government.

President Mikheil Saakashvili ordered a police crackdown on protesters and called early presidential polls on January 5, which he won with 53% of the vote. Opposition groups have claimed the vote was rigged.

Patarkatsishvili, who briefly visited Georgia in November and lives mainly in Britain, ran in the election enjoying immunity from prosecution during the campaign. He gained about 7% of the vote.

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