Billionaire opposition politician, Bidzina Ivanishvili, is not eligible to obtain Georgian citizenship through naturalization process, the Civil Registry Agency of the Ministry of Justice said on April 4.
As a French citizen, Ivanishvili should have applied for dual citizenship instead of trying to gain the Georgian passport through naturalization, the Civil Registry said in a statement.
The announcement came one day before the expiration of three-month deadline for responding to Ivanishvili’s application, who requested the Georgian authorities to restore his citizenship through naturalization on January 5.
“Georgian legislation provides two separate procedures for individuals seeking to obtain Georgian citizenship: individuals who currently are citizens of another country can apply for dual citizenship, while stateless persons pursue a naturalization process,” the Civil Registry Agency said.
“Mr. Ivanishvili, a French national, filed an application with the Civil Registry Agency of the Ministry of Justice requesting Georgian citizenship through naturalization. However, under the law, a foreign national cannot obtain Georgian citizenship through naturalization.”
“Being a foreign national, Mr. Ivanishvili can seek Georgian citizenship through the dual-citizenship process, as provided by the relevant Georgian legislation for foreign nationals. No such request has yet been filed by Mr. Ivanishvili with the relevant government agencies,” the agency at the Ministry of Justice said.
Before applying for citizenship through naturalization, Ivanishvili on December 29, 2011 submitted to the French embassy in Tbilisi a request for launching procedures for his withdrawal from the French citizenship. One of his lawyers, Shalva Tadumadze, said at the time that the move did not mean that Ivanishvili would now become a stateless person; Ivanishvili’s French citizenship would only be revoked in case of gaining the Georgian citizenship, the lawyer said.
If Ivanishvili decides to re-apply for the Georgian citizenship through a process indicated by the Civil Registry Agency - the dual-citizenship process, the authorities will again have three months to respond.
According to the law, reasons for refusal for granting Georgian citizenship are if a person “has committed an international crime against peace and humanity”; “has taken part in a crime against the state” or if granting of a citizenship would be “inexpedient” from the point of view of state and public security.
Hypothetically President Saakashvili can still overrule a decision of the Civil Registry Agency, whose April 4 ruling is actually a recommendation and it is the President who has final say on the issue of citizenship.