Otar Partskhaladze, the Georgian-Russian oligarch and former statesman, has been named in a US dossier as operating on behalf of Russia.
It comes after protests erupted in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi after the National Bank of Georgia did not apply US, EU or UK sanctions on individuals involved with Russia, including on Mr Partskhaladze.
The decision was criticised by Georgia’s President Salome Zourabichvili, with the controversial amendments to the rules signed last week by the Acting President of the National Bank of Georgia, Natia Turnava.
To the ire of Georgian citizens, the amendment came just days after the US announced a slew of sanctions on 150 individuals and entities deemed to be complicit in Russia’s shady dealings and war in Ukraine.
The dossier naming Mr Partskhaladze is the first of its kind and suggests that he and others may be spying for Russia, with Express.co.uk being told that it marks a new phase of the wider Cold War playing out between the West and Russia.
Mr Partskhaladze partially owns two businesses in Russia and is known to hold a Russian passport.
According to the dossier, published by intelligence collected by the US Department of State, he is known to have “operated in the management consulting sector of the Russian Federation economy”.
The dossier essentially names Mr Partskhaladze as a spy working with Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the Soviet KGB.
It reads: “FSB Officer Aleksandr Onishchenko likely assisted his associate Partskhaladze obtaining a Russian passport and possibly Russian citizenship.
“Partskhaladze has fully taken on Russian identity and routinely travels to Russia. Onishchenko and the FSB have leveraged Partskhaladze to influence Georgian society and politics for the benefit of Russia. Partskhaladze has reportedly personally profited from his FSB connection.”
No such dossier revealing the names at this level has ever been publicly published, according to Natia Seskuria, founder and director of the Georgia-based Regional Institute for Security Studies (RISS).
“Given how the Kremlin operates, it’s quite typical that someone like Partskhaladze has been recruited into Russia’s sphere of influence,” she told Express.co.uk.
“It’s very rare for us to know about this in such a public way, and so I think it’s in line with the US sanctions policy to fight against Russian malign influence.”
Mr Partskhaladze is thought to be a highly influential figure on the Georgian political scene, having held the high post of Prosecutor General of Georgia in 2013.
Before this, between 2008 and 2013, he served as the head of the investigative unit in the Shida Kartli region of the Georgia Ministry of Finance, later promoted to deputy director of the ministry’s investigative service before becoming its head for a few months in 2013.
He resigned from his position as Prosecutor General after allegations emerged that he had been convicted of robbery in Germany in 2001.
Some years later, in 2018, he was charged with beating the former head of the State Audit Office, Lasha Tordia, an incident said to have taken place in May 2017.
In 2021 he received Russian citizenship and from late 2022 was recorded as owning shares in a Russian-based company on the Russian Federation Unified State Register of Entrepreneurs.
The dossier has caused further controversy after two named Georgian banks — TBC Bank and the Bank of Georgia — are both listed on the London Stock Exchange.
There are fears that the Georgian banking system could become a backdoor for sanctioned individuals, including those from Russia, to continue operating in Europe.
While Georgia had in recent years turned away from Moscow and towards the West, since the outbreak of war in Ukraine it has appeared to cosy up to the Kremlin.
Irakli Kobakhidze, a member of the ruling Georgian Dream Party, confirmed in the wake of the war that the country would officially apply for EU membership in 2024 — something that is being assessed by Brussels in an anticipated document due to be released in October.
Despite this, Georgia has become a hotbed of Russian influence, attempting to roll out several copycat laws such as the wildly unpopular ‘foreign agents’ law which was revoked after mass protests.