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British Businessman Kidnapped in Georgia - 2002-06-19

Police in the Caucasian country of Georgia are looking for a British businessman who was kidnapped after a shoot-out with police. The incident is seen as an embarrassment for Georgia as it tries to shed its image as a lawless country.

British businessman Peter Shaw was in the center of Tbilisi late Tuesday when a carload of men dressed up as police officers pulled up alongside him.

The men demanded Mr. Shaw go with them, but he refused. At that time, a car with real policemen pulled up to investigate the incident. Then a third carload of men wearing camouflage clothing opened fire at the real policemen, and Mr. Shaw was taken away by the kidnappers.

Georgian officials said they are doing everything they can to find him.

Mr. Shaw is a banking expert who lives in Georgia and works with the Georgian commercial Agrobusinessbank. He was due to move in the near future.

Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze told a news conference Wednesday he is saddened by the incident. Mr. Shevardnadze added that Georgian authorities will aggressively pursue the kidnappers.

The incident comes at a time when Georgia is trying to shed its reputation as a lawless country where kidnappings are commonplace.

In Georgia, kidnappers often target foreign businesspeople, which has scared off many companies from doing business in the former Soviet republic.

Last December, two Spanish businessmen were released after slightly more than one year in captivity. A Lebanese businessman was kidnapped last year and released three months later.

Many of the kidnapping victims are taken to a region of Georgia called the Pankisi gorge, near the border with Russia's breakaway region of Chechnya. Although the region is part of Georgia, it is mainly lawless.

Recently, the United States sent military advisors to Georgia to train Georgian troops to fight Islamic militants believed to be in the gorge.