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Georgia's tax authorities have demanded that opposition leader Nino Burdzhanadze,
Georgia's tax authorities have demanded that opposition leader Nino Burdzhanadze, a former ally of the president, pay a $1 million fine for unpaid taxes on a luxury house granted by the president last year.

The property, located within the Tskneti government residence, was controversially given to Burdzhanadze by President Mikheil Saakashvili last May for the symbolic sum of one lari (61 cents) for her "contributions made to the development of democratic values" in Georgia.

Burdzhanadze, formerly speaker of the Georgian parliament and now leader of the United Georgia Democratic Movement, has been at the forefront of ongoing mass protests in Tbilisi against the president, which began on April 9.

When Saakashvili granted the house, worth $7.3 million, to Burdzhanadze and her family, several lawyers called the privatization of the state property illegal.

The Rustavi-2 TV channel reported on Thursday that the tax service is now demanding that she pay $1 million for failing to pay taxes on the property, and to submit a tax declaration.

"There are no documents showing that Ms Burdzhanadze submitted the declaration and paid the funds to the country's budget," a spokesman for the tax service said.

Burdzhanadze has less than a week to contest the tax claim. Under Georgian law, if she fails to pay, the house will be repossessed and sold at an auction.

Responding to the tax claim, the opposition leader told journalists that the authorities "are trying to frighten us and distract us from opposition activities."

Georgian media reported that Burdzhanadze delivered her tax declaration to a local tax office on Wednesday.

The current street protests are focused on anger that Saakashvili dragged the country into a war with Russia over South Ossetia last August, which resulted in the permanent split from Georgia of the province, along with another former republic, Abkhazia.

The opposition has also accused Saakashvili of spending state funds on building a luxury residential complex and buying a personal plane, despite the financial crisis. Saakashvili has pledged however to turn the complex into a kindergarten for refugees' children.


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