Two Businessmen Jailed for Bribery in Georgia Return to Israel

Roni Fuchs and Zeev Frenkiel were pardoned by Georgian President after spending last year behind bars for allegedly offering millions of dollars to Georgian deputy finance minister.

Roni Fuchs and Zeev Frenkiel, the two Israeli businessmen sentenced to imprisonment in Georgia earlier this year for allegedly offering seven-million-dollars-worth of bribes to the Georgian deputy finance minister, returned to Israel on Friday after being pardoned.

Upon arrival at Sde Dov airport in north Tel Aviv, Fuchs said that "it feels great to come back. I want to thank my wonderful family, my friends in Israel and my friends around the world." Fuchs thanked the MKs and ministers who were involved in the release, namely President Shimon Peres.

Georgia - Hadar Cohen - December 2, 2011
Hadar Cohen

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili announced Friday that the two men, who have spent the past year behind bars, have been pardoned. The pardon was granted following mediation by senior Israeli diplomatic officials, as well as efforts on the part of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

President Shimon Peres' advisers have been dealing with the case for the past few months, and Peres himself had discussed the matter with the Georgian president, even sending him a letter asking for the pardon.

In April this year, Ron Fuchs was sentenced to seven years in jail, and his partner, Zeev Frenkiel, was sentenced to six-and-a-half years, with both told to pay thousands of dollars worth of fines.

The businessmen allegedly attempted to bribe the Georgian minister to expedite international arbitration which would have mandated that the Georgian government pay Fuchs a sum of roughly 100 million dollars.

Frenkiel is the owner of a company that has been involved in a range of business ventures in Georgia. Media reports say Fuchs has an interest in a company called Tramex, which had oil and gas interests in the country. He was awarded an international arbitration ruling that Georgia had violated its obligations when it rescinded his interest, and ordered the Georgian government to pay $100 million in damages.

The two men were arrested in the Black Sea town of Batumi while meeting with Georgian Deputy Finance Minister Avtandil Kharadze.