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Georgia Rejects Ivanishvili Citizenship Bid, Leaves Door Open

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April 4 (Bloomberg) -- Georgia’s Justice Ministry denied billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili’s request for citizenship, while indicating that he can apply again using a different procedure.

The ministry said that Ivanishvili, who holds French citizenship, sought to become a Georgian citizen via naturalization, a category reserved for stateless persons.

“Being a foreign national, Mr. Ivanishvili can seek Georgian citizenship through the dual-citizenship process, as provided by the relevant Georgian legislation,” the ministry said today in an e-mailed statement. “No such request has yet been filed by Mr. Ivanishvili with the relevant government agencies.”

Ivanishvili, a Rossiiskiy Kredit Bank board member whose wealth Forbes magazine estimates at $6.4 billion, was stripped of Georgian citizenship on Oct. 11. While Georgia allows dual citizenship, Ivanishvili, who was already a Georgian and Russian subject, forfeited his right to Georgian citizenship when he obtained a third, French, passport, according to the ministry.

The billionaire has created a political coalition opposed to President Mikheil Saakashvili and plans to contest a parliamentary election in October. On Dec. 29, Ivanishvili announced that his Russian citizenship had been terminated and that he would renounce his ties to France.

Archil Kbilashvili, a lawyer for Ivanishvili, told reporters in the capital Tbilisi that he would appeal today’s ruling.

As many as 47 percent of likely voters would back Saakashvili’s National Movement if the vote were held tomorrow, according to a survey by the National Democratic Institute published on March 27. Ivanishvili’s coalition has 10 percent backing, the poll showed.

To contact the reporter on this story: Helena Bedwell in Tbilisi at hbedwell@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net

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