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Monday, 30 September, 2002, 19:12 GMT 20:12 UK
Georgia banker captive 'still alive'
Peter Shaw's family
A family photo was handed over by John Smith
A British businessman kidnapped during a street shoot-out in Georgia is alive, his MP was told as hopes of a release perked up again.

Peter Shaw of Cowbridge, south Wales, was taken as a hostage from the former Soviet republic's capital Tbilisi on June 18.

Repeated moves by the country's government - under intense European Union pressure - have yielded only dashed optimism.

Peter Shaw
Peter Shaw was kidnapped in June
But, after meeting president Eduard Shevardnadze on Monday, Labour MP John Smith said he believed authorities were in a position to have the captive released.

The meeting came 104 days after Mr Shaw, 57, became Georgia's latest kidnap victim.

He was bundled away from his car by a gang posing as police upon leaving his home in Tbilisi.

A former Midland bank manager originally from Maesteg, he was working for Agrobiznesbank - an agriculture development fund bankrolled by an EU aid programme - and became a high-profile associate of Shevardnadze.

After security forces failed to find Mr Shaw in a city basement - where authorities had believed he was held - the government now believes he is in the remote, lawless Pankisi Gorge to the north.

Russia has accused Georgia of allowing rebel Islamic militants to launch cross-border attacks from Pankisi into neighbouring Chechnya. The gorge remains a military flashpoint.

Both Mr Shaw's girlfriend in the country - the pair were to return to the UK the day after the kidnapping - and a business colleague have accused the government of intertia, saying it should have been done

However, Georgian interior and security ministers told John Smith MP they believed Mr Shaw was alive.

Mr Smith also met the president Monday, handing over a photograph of the captive's daughter Lisa Evans, 31, and her three children to highlight his family's anxiety back in Wales.

"I have spoken to all the senior people in administration," he said.

Talk of freedom

"They have told me Mr Shaw is alive, and I have no reason to think that is not the case.

"I am choosing my words carefully, but I believe Georgian authorities are in a position to secure Peter Shaw's release."

Peter Shaw also has two sons, Rhodri and Philip, from a first marriage and a son with his Georgian partner Diana Khorina.

A massive publicity campaign in Georgia is on-going, with billboard images of the banker plastered around cities, in newspapers and on television.

The European Union has already threatened an aid freeze if Georgia cannot halt its reputation for kidnapping of foreign nationals.


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