Companies controlled by Turkish businessmen have violated Georgian laws and regulations several times. Despite fines and warnings, they continue to operate.
Galip Ozturk, 53, became a Georgian citizen in 2015. He bought land and registered several companies. The most well-known is Metro, which runs buses throughout Georgia and neighboring countries.
In 2016, Ozturk opened a Turkish school in Batumi, on a small alley off New Boulevard. The school is mainly for children who speak Turkish and the classes are held in Turkish language.
The building did not have a construction permit and the school was not authorized by Georgia’s Ministry of Education. Representatives of the ministry or of the Adjarian regional government were not invited to the opening ceremony.
Gia Tavamaishvili, then the Minister of Education and Culture of Adjara, told local website Batumelebi in 2016 that he was not informed about the school opening.
“The use of ‘school’ as a name creates the obligation to get authorization. If it was a training center or something like that, it would be okay. But it is written in the law that using names such as ‘school’, ‘college’ or ‘university’ requires authorization,” Tavamaishvili told Batumelebi.
According to the government’s Education Managing Information System (EMIS), in Batumi there is still no Turkish school listed among authorized schools. According to the Georgian criminal code, educational activities without authorization is punishable with a fine, although no amount is listed. A repeated violation can bring imprisonment from one to three years.
The school director would not talk to iFact.ge. Questions were sent to the Embassy of Turkey. After several weeks, they said that they “cannot manage to answer the questions”.
Ozturk, wrote several Facebook posts about the school in September 2016. One read: “The first bell rang at our school. It will be good for us and for our citizens.”
The school building itself does not have a construction permit.
In 2015, the joint stock company Metro Atlas Georgia bought 2,500 square meters of land from the government of Adjara for $US1.5 million. Based on that agreement, the company should have built a hotel on this land. In 2018, two years after the school opened, Metro Atlas Georgia transferred this land free of charge to the joint stock company Metro City Legend Batumi. The land has been divided into two plots and the school was built on one of them.
In November 2015, the Batumi City Hall Supervision Department warned the company to stop working on the school until it had a construction permit. City Hall fined JSC Metro Atlas Georgia 3,000 lari (worth $1,100 today) in 2015. They later fined the company another 9,000 lari.
On December 11, 2015, Batumi City Hall sent a letter to the National Bureau of Enforcement ordering the destruction of the school building. But the school remains and children are studying there.
The National Bureau of Enforcement told iFact.ge that Batumi City Hall should also be involved in tearing down the school building, and that no date has been set for demolition. National Bureau of Enforcement spokesman Paata Shamugia, told iFact.ge the bureau won’t wait any longer for City Hall and will choose a date themselves.
Raul Kakhadze, director of JSC “Metro Atlas Georgia, did not give a clear answer on why the school was built without a construction permit. He answered “yes” when asked if it was because the company had already started building a hotel on neighboring land.
Kakhadze also says that in order to solve the problem, they are trying to unite the two land parcels into one so that the construction permit issued for the hotel also works for the school.