Members of Georgian gang go on trial in France
30 people are charged with money laundering.
French Nancy began the trial of three dozen members of the Caucasian criminal group, accused of acquiring property obtained by criminal means, and laundering money.
Two prosecutors who participated in this case since the end of 2012, when the Strasbourg police drew attention to the frequent thefts involving people from the Caucasus region revealed the details of the charge to the AFP agency. Le Parisien specifies that the operation had code-named Kavkaz-67. 67 is the number of the department of Lower Rhine, where the gang committed the crimes.
The magazine L'Express talks about one of the primary defendants: 46-year-old Kakhaber (Kakha) Shushanashvili, one of the "leaders of the Georgian mafia in Europe." A year ago Kakha Shushanashvili was sentenced to 15 years in prison in Spain, after which he was extradited to France where he is suspected of having masterminded one of his compatriots' murder in 2010 in Marseilles.
In France, he was placed in solitary confinement in the strictly guarded Beaumont prison. "They treat him like a monster!" lawyer Silvio Rossi Arno said. In addition to the murder, according to the French investigation, Kakha, as well as his brother Lasha, were at the head of the thieves' group in Strasbourg.
Lasha Shushanashvili is on the international wanted list and not present in the dock in Nancy. However, there are other kingpins: Zaza Elikashvili, Georgy Ellerzhia (Gia Galsky) and Bidzina Bakuridze. These thieves in law have been operating in Western Europe since the middle of the 2000s, the authors of the article explain, and more than once have already fallen into the hands of law enforcement agencies of Greece, Spain, Italy, and France.
Describing the members of this group, journalists' sources in the French investigation explain that most of them get to the European Union on forged Lithuanian documents or also on phony medical visas.
Based on the results of the five-year investigation, 34 accused, including four women, face trial. The majority of the defendants are Georgians, but there are also Azerbaijanis, Armenians, and Russians. Nine defendants have been under preliminary arrest since June 2015. Age of the defendants varies from 25 to 61 years. They are charged with crimes committed between 2013 and 2015 in Strasbourg, La Rochelle, Poitiers, and Niort. But, according to investigators, the group is also charged with crimes committed in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands. All of them face imprisonment for up to ten years. The court is to be terminated on June 15.