A massive stash of secretly recorded sex tapes, supposedly stockpiled by former Georgian Interior Ministry officials, has been destroyed in Tbilisi.
Authorities shredded compact disks containing 180 hours of police-produced sex footage last week in the presence of reporters and civil society leaders in the office of the Constitutional Security Agency. Representatives of Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili’s government say that the recordings were left behind by police officials who wielded power when President Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement had a majority in parliament.
Hidden cameras and compromising tapes have been a trademark of Georgian politics, especially in the last few years. Many experts, for example, point to the appearance of secretly filmed incidents of prison rape as influencing the outcome of the 2012 parliamentary elections, paving the way for Ivanishvili’s rise to power.
Of course, compiling compromising material is not all that new in Georgia, being a tried and true KGB method back in the Soviet era. In the South Caucasus both conservative social mores and a lax understanding of the rule of law have helped perpetuate an environment conducive to such techniques.
The recently shredded recordings, according to Ivanishvili loyalists now ensconced in power, were being held as potential political weapons that could be used if they could be beneficial to Saakashvili or his UNM colleagues. Saakashvili, whose presidential term is in its homestretch, has denied having any knowledge of the stash.
The destroyed footage was just a portion of the thousands of items found in Interior Ministry files after Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream coalition gained power. Police officials, and a small group of civil society representatives, who had access to the complete archive, say that remaining items include tapes of wiretapped conversations of politicians, civil activists and journalists. Most disturbingly, some files reportedly include data about the torture of detainees by police officials. The material contained on the shredded CDs supposedly included scenes of adultery and gay trysts of prominent men.
Incumbent officials say that they have put an end to secret recording practices and have proposed toughening criminal penalties for such action. Meanwhile rumors of the existence of back-up copies have appeared in some Tbilisi’s scandal sheets.
Georgians will soon find out for sure whether the political tradition of sex-tape sensationalism is coming to an end: a presidential election will be held October 27 and the campaign period has traditionally been high season for dumping secret recordings online.