ANALYTICS

The Bank of Georgia is involved in the financing of Armenian separatism - are shareholders aware of this?

22.06.24 12:48


It is of the utmost importance that Georgian businesses and financial institutions consider the interests of Georgia and its people, both within the country and beyond. It is unacceptable for the Georgian people to support separatism in any form.

 

 Currently, Georgia and its people are facing the challenges of separatism, which has resulted in the occupation of approximately 20% of our country's territory and the displacement of approximately 400,000 citizens of Georgia. These individuals are deprived of the opportunity to return to their homes. Their houses and flats are being looked after by individuals from another country.

 

We are discussing the case of ethnic Armenians from Karabakh, who have left this Azerbaijani territory despite Azerbaijan's repeated offers to accept their citizenship. It is worth noting that neither the separatists in Sukhumi and Tskhinvali nor Russia, which occupies these regions, is willing to consider granting either separatist or Russian citizenship to ethnic Georgians, let alone their return to their homes.

 

Ethnic Armenians in Abkhazia, who have already become the majority in the region, are actively encouraging their compatriots who have left Karabakh to return. It is notable that the separatist entity of Artsakh has recognised the so-called independence of the separatist entities of Abkhazia and South Ossetia much earlier than Russia. Furthermore, many Artsakh Armenians would prefer to relocate to the warmer seaside resort of Abkhazia rather than to the mountainous region of Karabakh, from which they attempted to flee, for reasons of both conscience and necessity, even during the period when this territory was under Armenian control. Many of them lacked the financial resources to relocate and establish themselves in an alternative location.

 

 Furthermore, there are sponsors who provide financial assistance to individuals seeking to relocate from Artsakh to a foreign country with a warm coastline. In Armenia, the Union for the Protection of the Interests and Rights of the People of Artsakh was established, which immediately secured the support of donors who are assisting Artsakh Armenians with resettlement and integration in their new locations. This includes the occupied territory of Abkhazia. It is notable that among these sponsors was the Georgian Sakartvelos Bank, also known as the Bank of Georgia. However, it provides financial support to separatists in Artsakh through its subsidiary in the Republic of Armenia, AMERIABANK, in which it holds a 90% stake. This is in contrast to the assistance provided to Georgian refugees from Abkhazia who have been affected by separatism and the Armenian fighters of the Baghramyan battalion.

 

In its article " The Bank of Georgia is involved in the financing of Armenian separatism - are shareholders aware of this?" the publication Day.Az raises a pertinent question regarding the bank's involvement in separatist activities. As a financial institution operating in a country that has experienced its own separatist movements and has a significant refugee population, the Bank of Georgia's actions are of interest to the public.

We are reproducing the article in full:

 

The result of a long-term political, diplomatic and military strategy pursued by the Azerbaijani state has been the destruction of Armenian separatism, which had existed on the territory of the country for several decades. The conditions created by international law and the unequivocal recognition of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity by countries around the world have resulted in the emergence of new geopolitical realities in the South Caucasus. However, some foreign forces that do not accept the new political order, their representatives in Armenia (revanchists) and persons close to the former separatist establishment are attempting to revive the so-called Karabakh issue.

 

In its Friday edition, Day.Az reports that on 17 January of this year, Trend announced the establishment of a non-governmental organisation called the Union for Protection of the Interests and Rights of the Artsakh people. The Union will be led by Artak Beglaryan, former "ombudsman" of the so-called Karabakh Republic.

 

The organisation's mission is to protect the collective rights of the Karabakh Armenians, who continue to live as "migrants" in Armenia and around the world. It represents their interests on international platforms and draws the world's attention to their problems. To date, the organisation’s leaders have conducted visits to several countries and held meetings with representatives of the Armenian diaspora and pro-Armenian politicians. On 1 February, a meeting was held in the USA between separatist representatives and US Congressmen Brad Sherman and James Costa, as arranged by the Armenian National Committee of America.

 

It is also evident that comparable activities are ongoing with the backing of French Armenian diaspora organisations. Artak Beglaryan, who recently assumed the role of head of the "Union for the Defence of the Interests and Rights of the Artsakh People," made a visit to Paris, the French capital.

 

The organisation has announced that it will be funded by civil donations. The activities conducted under the name "Union for the Defence of the Interests and Rights of the Artsakh People" are of a separatist nature, and the organisation's goals are publicly available.

 

However, the activities of foreign banks supporting this separatist activity, or rather its financing, aimed at claiming the internationally recognised territories of Azerbaijan, are not clear. Information regarding the banks involved in financing the organisation indicates the involvement of AMERIABANK, CITIBANK NA and RAIFFEISEN BANK.

 

It has come to our attention that donations can be made via bank transfers and credit cards. While the main account in this process belongs to AMERIABANK, an Armenian-origin bank, the intermediary bank for transfers in US dollars (USD) is CITIBANK NA, NEW YORK, RAIFFEISEN ZENTRALBANK OESTERREICH AG for euros (EUR), and in rubles (RUB) - AO RAIFFEISEN BANK, MOSCOW.

 

Global financial institutions, such as the aforementioned CITIBANK NA and RAIFFEISEN BANK, have been involved for some time as intermediary banks in financing separatist activities.

 

AMERIABANK, an Armenian bank, plays a leading role in financing the separatist organisation known as the "Union for the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Karabakh Population". Earlier this year, there was a change in the structure of shareholders of AMERIABANK. The controlling stake was previously held by the Armenian billionaire Ruben Vardanyan, a long-time resident of the Russian Federation.

 

Bank of Georgia is currently 90% owned by Bank of Georgia and Bank of Georgia JSC is a subsidiary of Bank of Georgia Group PLC. Bank of Georgia is currently a leading player in the financial markets of the neighbouring Republic of Georgia. AMERIABANK has a long history of involvement in separatist activities. However, the continuation of such activities even after Bank of Georgia's almost complete acquisition of the bank's shares is a step that runs counter to the official position of the government in Baku.

 

The emergence of the Armenian separatist movement in a new form, this time under the name of "Union for Protection of Interests and Rights of the Artsakh People", and the involvement of AMERIABANK, the main shareholder of which is Bank of Georgia, which is regarded as the leading bank of the Republic of Georgia, in this activity is not in line with the principles of Azerbaijani-Georgian strategic and good-neighbourly relations. Azerbaijan and Georgia have long been affected by separatist activities. At the highest level, both countries have expressed support for each other's territorial integrity on various platforms. While Baku has succeeded in eliminating Armenian separatism, the situation in Georgia with regard to the so-called Abkhazia and South Ossetia territories remains unresolved.

 

It should be noted that an armed group of Armenians, known as the Bagramian Battalion, was directly responsible for the brutal massacres of the local population and also played an active role in the separatist activities that erupted in Abkhazia in the 1990s. It is clear that the Georgian state and the public are fully aware of this.

 

The financing of separatist activities by AMERIABANK, which is owned by Bank of Georgia, that claim the sovereign territories of Azerbaijan constitutes an international crime.

 

In Georgia, where separatism still persists and where Armenian gangs committed atrocities against the local population on the territory of Abkhazia in the 1990s, it is inappropriate for the country's leading bank to support Armenian separatism.

 

As the principal shareholder of AMERIABANK, the Bank of Georgia has a responsibility to consider the implications of its actions on the broader geopolitical landscape. The bank's support for a political project aimed at reviving separatist activities in Karabakh, Azerbaijan, has the potential to impact Azerbaijani-Georgian relations and the stability of the region. The matter will continue to be a key focus.

The next section will now proceed to address the aforementioned points in greater detail. This is the end of the article.

 

Due to the Bank of Georgia's unexpected generosity, thousands of "Artsakh" separatists may now have the financial resources to achieve their long-held ambition of resettling in the separatist region of Abkhazia. Furthermore, the return of Georgian refugees will become increasingly challenging. It is possible that ethnic Abkhazians may eventually become refugees, displaced by separatists of the "oldest long-suffering nationality." It has come to light that Bank of Georgia is financing separatists, which is contrary to the national interests of Georgia.

 

A further question is whether the investment by Bank of Georgia in the Republic of Armenia, particularly the purchase of AMERIABANK shares from separatist criminal Ruben Vardanyan, was justified. This is particularly relevant given that Ruben Vardanyan and his structures were involved in sanctions circumvention and illegal supplies of weapons and dual-use products.

 

George Kvinitadze

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