16:17 GMT +319 December 2018
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    Georgian officials accuse tycoon's campaign head of coup plot

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    TBILISI, December 24 (RIA Novosti) - Georgia's top prosecutors accused on Monday the head of billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili's campaign headquarters of planning to stage a coup in the Caucasus state after presidential polls on January 5.

    Georgia's deputy prosecutor general said Valery Gelbakhiani, who is also a Georgian MP, had met with a senior Interior Ministry official, Erekle Kodua, to discuss mass street protests allegedly being planned for after the elections.

    The deputy prosecutor general said prosecutors would approach parliament for permission if "Gelbakhiani's arrest or a search [for him] are required."

    Badri Patarkatsishvili is Georgia's richest man, and currently lives in Britain. The tycoon called the statement a "provocation" and stated that he could sue Georgian authorities over it.

    "I will ask my lawyers in the United Kingdom to inform Scotland Yard about provocative acts that Georgian authorities have been carrying out against me," the businessman said in London in a statement that was also circulated via his campaign staff in Tbilisi.

    "[Georgian leader Mikheil] Saakashvili's regime has once again showed its inability to win the election by political means," he said.

    Saakashvili called the January 5 snap elections in early November amid mass street protests in the capital, Tbilisi, demanding his resignation. The U.S.-educated leader has since stepped down as president to run for reelection.

    Prosecutors said Gelbakhiani told Kodua that unrest will break out the next day after the polls no matter who wins them. He also allegedly said this is a plan agreed on with and financed by Patarkatsishvili.

    A member of the tycoon's campaign headquarters in Tbilisi admitted on Monday a meeting with Kodua, but said it was designed to deter clashes during possible post-election rallies. He said Patarkatsishvili had no plans to incite protests.

    Patarkatsishvili, who is himself suspected by Georgian authorities of instigating a coup during November's street protests, has repeatedly delayed his arrival in Georgia for pre-election campaigning over what he says is a lack of security guarantees from the government.

    In an interview with The Sunday Times over the weekend, the tycoon said he fears that he may be targeted in an assassination plot currently being prepared in Georgia.

    Georgia's National Security Council held a session on Monday to discuss allegations that a coup was being planned for after the elections.

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