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"Bank of Georgia" funds Armenian separatism - are the shareholders aware?

21 June 2024 13:57 (UTC+04:00)
"Bank of Georgia" funds Armenian separatism - are the shareholders aware?

By Ingilab Mammadov

Due to the political, diplomatic, and military strategies implemented continuously by the Azerbaijani state over many years, Armenian separatism, which had persisted in the country for several decades, has been eradicated and consigned to the pages of history. The conditions established by international law and the clear recognition of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity by countries worldwide have led to new geopolitical realities in the South Caucasus. However, some foreign forces, unwilling to accept the new political order, along with their representatives in Armenia (revanchists) and those close to the former separatist establishment, are attempting to revive the so-called Karabakh issue.

On January 17 this year, a non-governmental organization called "The Union for Protection of the Interests and Rights of the Artsakh People" was established, led by former "ombudsman" of the so-called Karabakh Republic, Artak Beglaryan. The organization's mission is to protect the collective rights of Karabakh Armenians who continue to live as "displaced persons" in Armenia and worldwide, represent their interests on international platforms, and raise global awareness of their issues. So far, the organization's leaders have organized trips to several countries and held meetings with representatives of the Armenian diaspora and pro-Armenian politicians. For example, on February 1, at a meeting organized by the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) in the US, separatist representatives met with US Congressmen Brad Sherman and James Costa.

Photo 1. Meeting with US Congressman Brad Sherman

Meanwhile, we can see that similar activities are ongoing with the support of French Armenian diaspora organizations. Artak Beglaryan, who began his tenure as the leader of the "Union for Protection of the Interests and Rights of the Artsakh People" several months ago, recently visited the French capital, Paris.

Photo 2. Artak Beglaryan receiving an award from Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo on April 24, 2024, in Paris.

The organization has declared that it will fund its activities through civilian donations. Operating under the name "Union for Protection of the Interests and Rights of the Artsakh People," it carries a separatist agenda, with its goals openly accessible to the public.

Yet, the activities of foreign banks supporting this separatist agenda, particularly their financing directed towards claims against internationally recognized Azerbaijani territories, remain obscure. Information regarding the banks involved in financing the organization is outlined as follows:

It was revealed that contributions can be made through bank transfers and credit cards. While the primary account in this process is held by AMERIABANK, an Armenian bank, the intermediary banks for transfers in US dollars (USD) include CITIBANK NA, NEW YORK, for euros (EUR) RAIFFEISEN ZENTRALBANK OESTERREICH AG, and for Russian rubles (RUB) AO RAIFFEISEN BANK, MOSCOW.

Global financial giants such as CITIBANK NA and RAIFFEISEN BANK have been serving as intermediary banks in financing separatist activities for some time now.

AMERIABANK, being an Armenian bank, plays a pivotal role in funding the separatist organization named the "Union for the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Karabakh Population". Earlier this year, there was a change in the shareholder structure of AMERIABANK, previously controlled by Armenian billionaire Ruben Vardanyan, who has long been based in the Russian Federation.

Photo 3. Current shareholders of AMERIABANK

Currently, 90 percent of the shares are owned by Bank of Georgia, with Bank of Georgia JSC operating as a subsidiary of Bank of Georgia Group PLC. Bank of Georgia is a prominent player in the financial markets of neighboring Georgia. AMERIABANK has long been actively involved in organizing separatist activities. However, the continuation of such activities even after Bank of Georgia acquired the majority shares of the bank is seen as a move against Baku.

The resurgence of Armenian separatism in a new guise, this time under the banner of the "Union for Protection of the Interests and Rights of the Artsakh People", and AMERIABANK's participation in these efforts - with Bank of Georgia as its major shareholder, a leading bank in Georgia - runs counter to the spirit of Azerbaijani-Georgian strategic and neighborly relations. Azerbaijan and Georgia have both faced challenges from separatism, and they have expressed mutual support for each other's territorial integrity at the highest levels. While Baku succeeded in quelling Armenian separatism, Georgia's issues with the so-called Abkhazia and South Ossetia remain unresolved.

During the separatist turmoil in Abkhazia during the 1990s, an armed Armenian group known as the "Bagramyan Battalion" played an active role, directly responsible for severe atrocities against the local population. The Georgian state and society are certainly well aware of this history.

Photo 4. The Bagramyan Battalion, an Armenian-formed group engaged in separatist activities in Abkhazia

Photo 5. Bagramyan’s Battalion is part of the so-called Armed Forces of Abkhazia, February 9, 1993.

The participation of AMERIABANK, owned by Bank of Georgia, in financing separatist activities claiming sovereign territories of Azerbaijan, is deemed an international crime.

In Georgia, which still grapples with separatism and where Armenian gangs committed atrocities against the local population in Abkhazia during the 1990s, the country's leading bank should not endorse Armenian separatism.

Bank of Georgia, now the major shareholder of AMERIABANK, cannot ignore Azerbaijani-Georgian relations and the challenges faced by its own nation, while supporting a political initiative aimed at revitalizing separatist activities that persisted in Azerbaijan's Karabakh for many years.

This issue will remain in the spotlight.

To be continued...

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