Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian citizenship was terminated the very day he acquired French citizenship. According to the Constitution of Georgia and Article 32 of the Organic Law of Georgia on Citizenship of Georgia, the acquisition of another country’s citizenship by a Georgian citizen causes an automatic loss of citizenship of Georgia. Ivanishvili was granted Georgian citizenship in 2004 and he became a French citizen thereafter – in 2010.
The Civil Registry of Georgia apparently only learned about Ivanishvili’s French citizenship on 7 October when the oligarch released a political statement which referred to his “Russian and French passports.” The Civil Registry then studied the issue and established that Ivanishvili had been granted French citizenship after he received his Georgian passport. Legal procedures for termination of Ivanishvili’s Georgian citizenship have been completed, according to Giorgi Vashadze, Deputy Minister of Justice and Head of the Civil Registry Agency.
Eka Beselia, who identifies herself as the personal lawyer of Bidzina Ivanishvili, has confirmed to Tabula that her client received his French passport in 2010. However, she contends that Ivanishvili is still a Georgian citizen. The lawyer corroborates her claim with documents showing that the oligarch first acquired Georgian citizenship in 2004, received a Georgian passport and ID in 2006, and then received another Georgian passport in 2010 – after he became a French citizen. The lawyer also points to the May 2010 local elections voter lists, which include Ivanishvili’s name. Beselia maintains that Ivanishvili had no obligation to notify the Civil Registry about his French citizenship when he received his Georgian passport in 2010. There is no legal obligation to exchange information on this issue with any relevant Georgian bodies, consulates or diplomatic services, the lawyer claims.
Ministry of Justice officials explain that Ivanishvili’s renewed Georgian passport was actually issued in 2011 and only because the Civil Registry was not informed about his French citizenship until later in the year when the oligarch released his statement on 7 October. Before that date, any document issued to Ivanishvili as to a Georgian citizen was processed automatically as a matter of course, hence, his inclusion in the list of registered voters. With regard to the exchange of information about dual citizenship, Director of Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Giorgi Tabatadze says Georgia and France are not obliged to exchange that sort of information. Any such informational exchange is a reflection of good will between countries, not an obligation of law.
Bidzina Ivanishvili can reapply for Georgian citizenship, which he has not done yet. Eka Beselia says Ivanishvili is waiting to receive the legal document stripping him of his Georgian citizenship. The President of Georgia is authorized to grant Georgian citizenship to citizens of foreign countries. The Law on Citizenship of Georgia provides for a maximum three-month term for consideration of such applications and the final decision. Denials of citizenship applications can be re-examined within six months of the date of final decision. The Law also provides for the President, in exceptional cases, to grant citizenship to a foreign citizen without observing the stipulated procedures. The President’s denial of citizenship can be appealed to the court.
Under Georgian law, Bidzina Ivanishvili will have the right to establish a political party and to participate in elections only if he reacquires his Georgian citizenship. Legal restrictions apply to the funding of political parties as well – political parties are not allowed to receive contributions from natural or legal citizens of other countries or without Georgian citizenship.