Should Armenia Grant Citizenship to Foreign Investors?

Columnist Harut Sassounian
Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian

BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN

The Acting Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan has made attracting overseas investors the priority of his new government.

So far, it is too early to determine if foreign investors are interested in doing business in Armenia. The common explanation for the lack of new investors is that they are waiting for the results of Parliamentary elections scheduled for December 9, 2018. It is expected that the Acting Prime Minister’s political party will win the majority of the Parliamentary seats. Government officials believe that this will encourage foreigners to start investing in Armenia.

However, there is an additional way that Armenia can attract new foreign investors relatively quickly by offering them citizenship. Many countries around the world have offered such citizenship opportunities to foreigners, including the United States, Europe and third world countries.

Earlier this year, the hetq.am investigative website published an article on Arton Capital, a company that specializes in “citizenship by investment” programs around the world. A delegation from the company visited Armenia last year at the invitation of the International Center for Migration Policy Development. Anton Capital’s website stated after the visit: “the concept of citizenship by investment was embraced by [Armenia’s] high level officials at the Ministry of Economic Development and Investments, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Presidential Administration, the Central Bank, the Police, the State Migration Service and the Center for Strategic Initiatives.”

Armand Arton, a Bulgarian-Armenian, is the President of Arton Capital, and Emil Shahmooradian is the company’s Vice President of Business Development. Arton Capital has offices in a dozen countries. On his company’s website, Armand Arton stated: “as a proud Armenian, I am honored to offer my years of professional experience and acute know-how to help the country meet its foreign direct investment goals. In support of its philanthropic commitment, Arton Capital has pledged to donate the consulting fees awarded by the contract to help refugees in Armenia. More than 20,000 Syrians, many of whom are ethnically Armenian, have found refuge in Armenia since the Syrian war began in 2011.”

Countries offering such a program require from foreigners different levels of investment to qualify for citizenship. Arton Capital recommends that Armenia require the small amount of $50,000 as a minimum investment for a foreigner to become a citizen. Other countries demand much more from foreign investors with the most attractive countries asking as much as $10 million of investment for citizenship. The Company estimates that Armenia would receive $138 million of additional revenue in the next six years, if it implements the suggested investment for the citizenship program.

According to hetq.am, Arton Capital recommended that “Armenia offer potential investors two options: a $50,000 direct contribution to a state-owned fund or a $100,000 investment in a fund run by an asset management company chosen by the government, which would offer the possibility of some return. It further suggests that Armenia sets two types of fees. The first would be a non-refundable processing fee of up to $10,000; the second fee, the amount of which is not specified, would cover background checks into applicants’ records and sources of income.”

Arton Capital’s trip report on Armenia “highlights the country’s positives, such as its strong ties to global economic hubs and its geographic and cultural proximity to strategic markets. Armenia offers investors access to Russia and almost all the post-Soviet states, which means around 250 million potential consumers, including in Central Asia – plus almost 82 million more in neighboring Iran, with which the country has friendly relations. And if the country achieves visa-free access to the Schengen zone, which it might in five to seven years, it could justly claim to have recreated its historic role as a stop on the Silk Road linking east and west. As a whole, investors looking for long-term value can be sold on the advantages of Armenia. With [visa-free access] to 60+ countries and its special relationship with Russia together with its geographical proximity with Iran, obtaining an Armenian citizenship will be seen not only as a means to secure one’s future and security, but also as a strategic move for one’s business development and positioning.”

Significantly, hetq.am cautioned in its article that some foreigners interested in investing in other countries for the sake of acquiring citizenship can bring with them all sorts of illegal activities, such as tax evasion, money laundering, corruption and organized crime.

Armenian government officials have to balance the benefits of the investment for citizenship program with its drawbacks. Foreign applicants have to be thoroughly vetted before being granted Armenian citizenship in return for their investments.

Update on Armenian-American Candidates in US Elections
In addition to the list of Armenian-American candidates in the U.S. midterm elections that I reported in an earlier article, we should add:

— Dick Harpootlian (Democrat) was elected to the South Carolina State Senate on November 6, 2018. He won 52.3% of the votes against his Republican rival Benjamin Dunn’s 47.6%.

— Anthony Brindisi (Democrat) was elected a Member of Congress from upstate New York on Nov. 6, 2018, according to the final count of the vote. Brindisi’s great grandparents were born in Mardin, southeastern Turkey and fled during the Armenian Genocide to Aleppo, Syria, where his grandfather was born. As of January 2019, there will be three Armenian-Americans in the U.S. House of Representatives: Brindisi, Eshoo, and Speier.

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16 Comments

  1. State of Emergency said:

    In order of importance:

    1st – discourage native-born citizens from emigrating
    2nd – create opportunities for diaspora immigration
    3rd – dole out citizenship to the highest bidder

    Of course, money talks so they’ll most likely start from the bottom and work their way up. What else would you expect?

  2. barseghian said:

    Baron Sassounian, hargankov dzer gianki azgayn dzaraoutian, ge havadak vor yevropai kordzounia karakatsin ge tsanganah haygagan hebadagoutioun ? Intch okout g’ounenah, patse ientargeve hayastani ter angaioun tadaraneroun. Tor aratchin aradjargen spiurkahayoutian, ge tsanganan ? Yerp hay karakatsin ge paxe socialagan badjarov houis ounenalov Yevropagan te B. Trumpi hebadagoutioun estanar. Medahok em, hedagergir garmir louiser ge varven, Spiurkahay, 28 dari hayastani kurerou penagitch, ierort andznagires, hadouk garkavidjagi, vor g’arkele endrel, endervelou, karakagan ielouit, mi karort edji barz tourti vera im negares … 140 000 dram. PARI GALOUST HAIASTAN SPIURKAHAY, KO YERGIR .. kitch me porov aveli lav

  3. ardachece barseghian said:

    Mr. Sassounian, respectful of your existence in the service of the Armenian Cause, do you believe that the hypothetical foreign investor can find an interest in adopting the Armenian identity? In case of dispute he will have the obligation to submit to the decision of the courts which still does not decide in law. The Armenian of the diaspora who obtains a specific legal identity, can not elect or be eligible, forbids to express his opinion in public. When the Armenian citizen only dreams of being able to swap his citizen identity against the Russian, American or European. Especially, a member of the diaspora, established in an Armenian village for 28 years who recently obtained the third justification of misleading identity on a quarter of a draft sheet for 140 000 DRAM, with the obligation to provide a certificate of baptisms of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Thus, the Armenian Republic wishes the diaspora “welcome to Armenia” for the sole and unconfirmed purpose of extracting money and keeping quiet. In a context where the desire or interest of the foreign citizen may be to want to adopt Armenian nationality, he would then be able to impose military service on him.

  4. Raffi said:

    Armenia should not offer such a program, not while the Armenia’s population is dwindling, we should remember the Palestinians, they were happy for selling their land and houses at hefty prices to the Israelis, and that brought them to today’s problems, with millions of diaspora Armenians who are not able to locate in Armenia, how weird will be to populate the land with foreigners., not to forget the hostile neighbours and the ongoing war which can be an opportunity to infiltrate unfriendly elements into the country.

    • Edward Demiraiakian said:

      Realize that world migrants already pay large sums of money to be taken to European countries. Your poverty may look attractive to others.

  5. Satenik said:

    No not a good idea and not with that kind of money. I think we will attract all the wrong people. Agree with some of the comments that we should give priority to the Armenians and do our utmost for people not to leave it Armenia for away lands…

  6. Tactical Armenian said:

    No, they lack Armenian identity, a nation is nothing without it’s race, most investors will naturally be Armenian and have the nation’s interests at heart (generally speaking), immigration especially these days should be given strictly to Armenians, neo-liberalism is dead and has no future

  7. Arto said:

    The answer is unequivocally NO. I live in Vancouver and money for citizenship has destroyed the fabric of this city. Wealthy investors buy real estate as investments and don’t even to bother to live here or contribute to the society. As you mentioned, this type of immigration brings with them all sorts of illegal activities, such as tax evasion, money laundering, corruption and organized crime.

  8. HAGOP said:

    I HAVE SAID IT BEFORE AND I’LL SAY IT AGAIN!!! EVERYONE OUTSIDE OF ARMENIA RAISING MONEY FOR ARMENIA CAN PACK THEIR BAGS, BUY A 1 WAY TICKET AND MOVE THERE RIGHT NOW!!!! GAREN YEGPAYRIAN CAN BE THE FIRST ONE!!! THAT IS THE BEST WAY TO HELP ARMENIA!!!! TOO EASY TO DRIVE A MERCEDES IIN GLENDALE WITH A CIGARETTE IN YOUR HAND!!!! ALL ARMENANS IN GLENDALE CAN MOVE TO ARMENIA RIGHT NOW!!! THAT IS INSTANT 200,000 POPULATION IN CREASE IN ARMENIA!!!! EACH FAMILY MAKES 4 BABIES EQUALS ALMOST 1 MILLION PEOPLE INCREASE POPULATION. WHY DOES NOBODY WANT TO MOVE TO ARMENIA????? IT IS FREE, INDEPENDENT!!!!! BECAUSE CORRUPTION, NO JOBS, NO HOPE, NO FUTURE. PATHETIC!!!!

    WHY WOULD ANYBODY WANT CITIZINSHIP OF A WEAK, POOR, LANDLOCKED, CORRUPT COUNTRY WITH WOMEN, CHILDREN AND OLD PEOPLE????

  9. berj said:

    It is an idle and inane concept, for Hayastan, to grant citizenship in exchange for investment. If a foreigner wants to invest, he can do so without the privilege of ” buying” our national citizenship. Haysatan is not a Bazaar ( or maybe it is if we read Mr Sasounian opinions.) Armenian citizenship is for Armenians alone. With the unpredictable Nikol Pashinian and his members in government anything can be expected, but nothing good. The mobocracy rules in Hayastan today. Nikol takes a loudspeaker and fills plazas and street corners with throngs of popular support. Nikol thinks he can rule Armenia by calling gatherings and crowds to block streets and disrupt daily life.. A rude awakening awaits him. Uneasy times lie ahead for our suffering and castigated nation. God forbid there is not another skirmish or ” war” with Azerbaijan. Nikol as commander in chief of the armed forces its a sure ticket to disgrace.

    • HAGOP said:

      TO BERJ!!!

      YOU DON’T LIKE NIKOL CLEANING HOUSE AND THROWING CORRUPT SCUM BAGS IN JAIL????? YOU LIKE THE WAY IT WAS BEFORE WITH CORRUPTION, MURDER, TAX EVASION, ILLEGAL LAND GRABBING, STEALING?????? 30 YEARS SINCE INDEPENDENT ARMENIA, BILLIONS OF DOLLARS WERE STOLEN AND NOT INVESTED!!!!! ARMENIA COULD BE HIGH TECH NOW!!! VILLAGES WITH ROADS, SOLAR AND WIND POWER, JOBS, NOBODY LEAVING ARMENIA!!!!

      YOU ARE A FOOL BERJ IF YOU THINK PASHINYAN IS HURTING ARMENIA. HE IS FLUSHING THE TOILET!!!!! JAIL! JAIL! JAIL! FOR CORRUPT LEADERS!!!!

  10. STEPHAN MARKARYAN said:

    WE SHOULD NATIONALIZE ALL THE LANDS WITCH IS SAVED WITH THE BLOOD OF OUR PEOPLE AND OUR BROTHERS. YEZDIZ ASIRYANS AND ATHERS.

  11. Artin said:

    Absolutely not. Not unless Armenians want to go extinct as a culture. Look what is happening to Western Europe. I like being Armenian & I love our church. Once we sell our identity for something as vulgar & pathetic as money, we spit in the face of ALL the Armenians who died for our nation in its long course to obtain freedom from foreign influence or domination. We CAN fix the problems of Armenia together, all we need is each other, sure it will take longer, but its not impossible! 1) Fix the basics so Armenians dont leave Armenia 2) Create real opportunities for Armenians to invest more than just money via donations into Armenia (i.e. get America to ratify the US-Armenia double tax treaty) & 3) start building up infrastructure, this will not only provide sorely needed jobs, it will help modernize the nation. Think of what FDR did for the average working American during the great depression. Think about what building the national highways network & railways network did for America. We must also in my humble opinion, start looking more towards self sufficiency rather than simply following the course of any typical western nation & begging for foreign non-diaspora investment. After all, we aren’t some gulf state!

  12. dinasourian said:

    My Iranian friend told me Iran can buy out Armenia, absolutely NoT!! Dont give citizenship to odars. They have very gelouse segments of their population thats clanish and will destroy Armenian monuments all around the world! Dont let strangers live in your home unless you want Iran to conqueror you!

  13. ardachece barseghian said:

    Բարոն Սասսունիան՝ հարգանկով ձեր գիանկի ազգայն ձարաուտիան՝ գե հավադակ վոր յեվրոպաի կորձունիա կարակածին գե ծանգանահ հայգագան հեբադագուտիուն ՞ Ինտճ ոկուտ գ̕ունենահ՝ պածե իենտարգեվե հայաստանի տեր անգաիուն տադարաներուն։ Տոր արատճին արադձարգեն սպիւրկահայուտիան՝ գե ծանգանան ՞ Յերպ հայ կարակածին գե պախե սոծիալագան բադձարով հուիս ունենալով Յեվրոպագան տե Բ։ Տրւմպի հեբադագուտիուն եստանար։ Մեդահոկ եմ՝ հեդագերգիր գարմիր լուիսեր գե վարվեն՝ Սպիւրկահայ՝ 28 դարի հայաստանի կւրերու պենագիտճ՝ իերորտ անձնագիրես՝ հադուկ գարկավիդձագի՝ վոր գ̕արկելե ենդրել՝ ենդերվելու՝ կարակագան իելուիտ՝ մի կարորտ եդձի բարզ տուրտի վերա իմ նեգարես ։։։ 140 000 դրամ։ ՊԱՐԻ ԳԱԼՈՒՍՏ ՀԱԻԱՍՏԱՆ ՍՊԻՒՐԿԱՀԱՅ՝ ԿՈ ՅԵՐԳԻՐ ։։ կիտճ մե պորով ավելի լավ

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