UN Tourism Chief Zurab Pololikashvili in a Spiderweb of Trouble?

Zurab diplomatic

The Koldo crime in Spain has been making top headlines for many months with Begoña Gómez, the wife of the Spanish president, in the center. Also at the center of this investigation are arrested Víctor Gonzalo de Aldama, and his close friend Zurab Pololikashvili, the Secretary General of UN Tourism, who cannot fully escape the attention he gets in this criminal investigation.

Arrested alleged ringleader of the Koldo crime, Mr. Víctor Gonzalo de Aldama was the president of Zamora CF, when he was detained by the Spanish Police (UCO).

He allegedly benefited greatly from corrupt face mask contracts during COVID-19 granted to Soluciones de Gestión, and the Air Europe government bailout.

Most of the scam was allegedly negotiated at the official residence of the then Minister of Transport, José Luis Ábalos, with whom the Zamora president forged a close personal relationship.

Zurab Pololikasvili, the Secretary General of UN Tourism helped the accused and detained alleged ringleader of the Koldo crime, Víctor Gonzalo de Aldama to become the honorary consul of Georgia with diplomatic immunity and international travel benefits.

Before becoming Secretary General of the UNWTO, Zurab had held the position of extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador of Georgia in Spain, the Principality of Andorra, and the Kingdom of Morocco and permanent representative of Georgia on the UNWTO Council. He used this diplomatic position at that time to put together his candidacy and what many say manipulation to be elected as head of the United Nations tourism agency in 2018.

An interview in the Dimplomacia magazine is witness to this approach.

The question is how the alleged Koldo crime leader Aldama managed to be named honorary consul of Georgia in Zamora, Spain.

According to embassy data, there are only ten Georgian citizens registered in the entire province, and whose consular headquarters was initially located in the Ruta de la Plata municipal stadium and after this conveniently to the offices of Zamora CF, his company he used for his alleged fraud.

Before obtaining this status as a Georgian diplomat, Aldama already showed on his resume the title of delegate of the Spanish community in Latin America related to an international human rights organization, a diplomatic title.

The answer lies clearly with the secretary of UN Tourism, formerly UNWTO (UN World Tourism Organization), Zurab Pololikashvili.

The Georgian head of this UN organization, Zurab Pololikashvili has been a personal friend of Aldama for years. “It was he who introduced them before the pandemic and through him, he obtained the title of honorary consul of Georgia in Zamora.”

With Aldama, Zurab also shares his love for football and managing clubs, since Pololikashvili was also CEO of FC Dinamo Tbilisi, a professional football team from the capital of Georgia.

Pololikashvili used his connections in the football world to buy votes by giving impossible-to-get tickets for a Real Madrid football game to African ministers he needed votes for on the day before his 2017 election.

After he was appointed secretary general of the UN Agency for Tourism, he met Hidalgo and formed a close personal friendship inseparable from his business relations. 

“They became close, traveling together and doing business together.”

The result of this was the Globalia subsidiary, Wakalua, a tourism innovation hub designed between Globalia and the UNWTO that they both created and which served to strengthen ties with the Spanish president’s wife, Begoña Gómez.

A company that was registered in March 2019, but, according to its sources, was created a year earlier, in 2018, precisely when the Georgian diplomat and former politician was appointed head of the UNWTO.

Globalia was an exceptional guest at UNWTO’s general assembly in St. Petersburg, Russia in September 2019.

Wakalua was the only Spanish company invited to attend the GA in Russia, where Aldama, Javier Hidalgo, and Begoña Gómez held their first private meeting to discuss business matters with the blessing and most likely involvement by the UNWTO Secretary General.

After that first meeting in Saint Petersburg, other events followed at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020, such as the celebration of the IE African Center startup awards sponsored by Wakalua

This event was attended by Begoña Gómez, the CEO of Globalia, Javier Hidalgo, and precisely Zurab Pololikashvili.

As secretary of the UNWTO, Pololikashvili was, together with Globalia, the promoter of the Wakalua hub that sponsored an award, and Begoña Gómez was the director of the IE African Center and organizer of the event.

It is striking that this collaboration occurred just three months after the wife of the Spanish president asked Hidalgo for help in promoting the Institute at a private meeting in a hotel on the sideline of the St Petersburg UNWTO General Assembly event.

The following year, in September 2020, a new meeting of the UNWTO Executive Council took place in Georgia, Zurab’s native country.

The currently arrested Aldama appeared on the list of attendees as a “Globalia director”, despite not having a position on the company’s board and being only an external advisor whom the Hidalgo holding company. This happened obviously because Zurab Pololikashvili arranged it.

As documented in the Delorma criminal investigation, the 200 million Dollar bailout for Air Europa, the shady connection to Venezuela, and another rescue action were on this hidden agenda.

Globalia director, Lisandro Menu Marque attended the Executive Council meeting by the UNWTO of Georgia, accompanied by Aldama, also representing Globalia.

According to Air Europa sources, the rescue amount was increased by 75 Million more than the recommended amount. This was the largest rescue by Spain granted to a private company. The documents in the criminal investigation may reveal there is even more to this story.

Surprisingly Zurab Pololikashvili has been using his office to change term limits allowing him to run for a third term next year. The support he had in 2017 due to Europe supporting him due to Georgia’s ambition to join the EU may not be such a big issue any more next time judging from what happened in Georgia recently in regards to the foreign agent law, known as the “Russian Law”

With this ongoing case in Spain getting becoming more relevant, also within the European Union, with the manipulation Zurab showed UNWTO members when he changed regulations for a third time (one at each election) to fit his personal agenda to stay in power for another term may finally open the eyes of UN-Tourism member countries. The reputation of this agency is very much at stake.

About the author

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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