President Armen Sarkissian resigns amid investigation into secret citizenship

President Armen Sarkissian

President Armen Sarkissian released a surprise statement on Sunday announcing his resignation.

In the statement, Sarkissian attributed his decision to the limits placed by the Constitution on the power of the president to influence policy in times of national crisis. However, an article by Hetq.am reveals that Sarkissian resigned after the independent investigative news outlet learned of his illegal citizenship of St. Kitts and Nevis.

Sarkissian wrote that the president does not have the “necessary tools to influence the fundamental processes in domestic and foreign policy.” He lamented the incapacity of the president to “influence issues related to war and peace,” “veto those bills that he considers inappropriate for the state and people,” “use a crucial part of his potential to solve systemic domestic and foreign policy issues,” or possess the “constitutional tools to help his country” in a time of global “constant turbulence.” Instead, the president’s capabilities “are not perceived as an advantage for the state but are viewed as a threat to various political groups.”

He added that the head of state and his family have become “targets for attacks by various political groups.”

“Though they do not show much interest in the achievements of the institution of the President for the good of the country, they stay very focused on my past and all sorts of conspiracy theories and myths. This ‘concern’ about my personality began to go beyond the bounds of morality, which has ultimately affected my health,” the statement reads. 

Contrary to Sarkissian’s explanation, an investigation by Hetq.am published on Monday reveals that Sarkissian actually resigned after he was contacted by journalists regarding his secret second citizenship of St. Kitts and Nevis. 

According to Hetq.am, Sarkissian held a passport for the Caribbean nation as late as 2017, shortly before his election the following year. Under Article 124 of the Armenian Constitution, the president must have held citizenship of only the Republic of Armenia for the preceding six years. Therefore, all of the decrees signed by Sarkissian to date, including various laws and the appointment of public officials, are illegal documents. 

Sarkissian told Hetq.am that he was granted citizenship automatically through a citizenship-by-investment program in return for his holdings in a St. Kitts and Nevis hotel. 

“The investment was the driving factor. I was not interested in the passport at all,” Sarkissian told Hetq.am. 

Sarkissian said that he instructed the company that organized his investment to put his citizenship on hold prior to being appointed Armenian ambassador to the United Kingdom in 2013. In 2017, he discovered that the process had not been carried out, and he contacted his legal counsel to repeat his request. 

Hetq.am has not disclosed details regarding when Sarkissian obtained St. Kitts and Nevis citizenship. “We cannot provide many details of the investigation at this stage as it is a cross border investigation and not yet complete,” the article reads. 

Hetq.am contacted Sarkissian during his final official visit to the United Arab Emirates. After his visit to the UAE, he resigned and departed for a vacation “to undergo the necessary medical examination.” According to Hetq.am, Sarkissian can be prosecuted for forging official documents if he returns to Armenia. 

The office of the president responded to the investigation by stating that the “true reasons for the President’s resignation are clearly and fully presented in the text of his resignation statement.” “Unfortunately, the Hetq.am publication and the like are an attempt to divert public attention by a false agenda again,” the statement reads

The Office of the Prosecutor General of Armenia has forwarded Hetq.am’s article to the National Security Service (NSS) for further investigation. 

Sarkissian began his political career in the 1990s as a diplomat for the newly formed Republic of Armenia in the United Kingdom. He briefly served as prime minister for four months in 1996 under President Levon Ter-Petrosyan, until he was replaced by Robert Kocharyan. 

For the following decade he lived in the United Kingdom as a British citizen and worked as a consultant for various multinational corporations, including British Petroleum and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. During this time, he built a multi-million dollar business empire, according to an earlier investigation by Hetq.am. While Sarkissian has said that he renounced his British citizenship in 2011, the NSS is investigating whether he held British citizenship prior to his election, when he served as Armenian ambassador to the UK from 2013-2018.

In March 2018, Sarkissian was elected president of Armenia by a parliament dominated by former President Serge Sargsyan’s Republican Party. His election was the final step in transitioning from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary system, under which the president would serve as a ceremonial figurehead. Sarkissian was sworn in as president one month later amid the Velvet Revolution that removed Sargsyan and swept current Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to power. 

In the past year, Sarkissian has at several points vocalized his disagreement with the prime minister’s administration. After the end of the 2020 Artsakh War, he joined calls for PM Pashinyan’s resignation and distanced himself from the ceasefire agreement. In March 2021 he refused to sign a draft decree dismissing the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Onik Gasparyan, issued by the prime minister’s office after Armenia’s military brass demanded Pashinyan’s resignation. 

Under the Constitution, the National Assembly must elect a new president within 35 days after the office becomes vacant. The president is elected with at least three fourths of the vote, or by at least 81 of the 107 members of parliament. If a candidate is not elected in the first round, then nominees compete in a second round of elections within 10 days for at least three fifths of the vote. The ruling Civil Contract Party currently holds 71 seats in the National Assembly. 

Several Armenian news outlets have reported that the Civil Contract Party will nominate Arayik Harutyunyan, PM Pashinyan’s chief of staff and former Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports, for the position. 

Civil Contract Party deputy Artur Hovhannisyan told news.am that while many names are circulated during deliberations, the party has not made an official decision. “It must be taken into account that President Armen Sarkissian still has a chance to withdraw his letter of resignation,” he said.

During a press conference on Monday, PM Pashinyan said that the presidential nominee should “ensure political harmony between the president, the government and the parliament majority.” 

The opposition parliamentary factions have not yet announced any candidates for presidency.

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian is a staff writer for the Armenian Weekly. Her writing has also been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Hetq and the Daily Californian. She is pursuing master’s degrees in Journalism and Near Eastern Studies at New York University. A human rights journalist and feminist poet, Lillian's first poetry collection Journey to Tatev was released with Girls on Key Press in spring of 2021.

20 Comments

  1. President Armen Sarkisian may well have been the best man to replace PM Pashinyan; now, he decided to resign. Unlike Pashinyan, Sarkissian actually does have a good command of the English Launguage. Really bad news, but maybe he’ll return and run against Pashinyan.

    • Of course he has to have a good grasp of the English language, you need a level one and level two English language certificate to qualify for a British passport.

      You think he could have signed contracts for ownership of hotels in offshore accounts in Kitts and Nevis with broken English?

      But please, tell me how he would have saved Armenia…. pathetic

    • The resigned president would be pursued by international police soon. He also was instrumental that Armenia failed to attack oil and gas pipelines of Azerbaijan. Mr. Sarkisian was protecting foreign interest as well as his own business interest.

    • Its no accident that after 30 plus years of being the strongest country in the caucus, that liberated and HELD OUR OWN ancient lands, that as soon as the worst most incompetent useless traitor, Levon wantabe pretending “PM”, was installed, while tough on his fellow Armenian and a total coward to the enemy, who releases Azeri criminals while our own are being held and paraded, who purposely didn’t mobilize the army, who lied at every turn of the doomed war and still lies till this day while doing things in secret, who shuffled the military into disarray and was personally responsible for the deaths of 4500 Armenian souls as a result of his gross incompetence, who left Artsakh alone to defend itself as he views it as a burden, who refuses to even go there at the demand of the Azeri’s and even denounces our ancient lands as “not being Armenian” who blames everyone else for his incompetence including the past thieves and traitors and scorns the diaspora for his major losses and damage HE causes to the Armenian race, yet always thin skinned to anyone who calls him out. Yes that is Nikol Pashinyan. Hes not stealing anything. He is just giving it away to Turks as a way to Armenia’s prosperity at his core plan. What a plan. Cant fix this kind of treasonous stupidity. He needs to be rid. He is to blame.

    • @ Papken, Sarkisian wasn’t the one in charge of the Army. Blame the non mobilization of the army, the constant reshuffling and the orders NOT TO Shoot on the useless traitor PM who wanted to purposely lose. Pashinian’s idea all along was to give Armenian lands back, sacrifice Artsakh to Azerbaijan in a scheme for future prosperity and peace. As if its his to give away. As if that has ever worked with Turks. And he lied about it all the way through the war. Why is there no accounting of the war? You know there wont be. Pashinayn doesn’t even go to Artsakh and show his face. This at the request of Azerbaijan. The blame for the loss is on Pashinyan. NO ONE ELSE.. As corrupt as Sarkisian may be, as they all were, he is way more intelligent and much more of a patriot and actually called out the traitor and his ill run ideas and secret unilateral meetings. This is just another way for Pashinyan to silence his critics so as to implement that great giveaway and pretend the loss was “not his fault”.

  2. Anybody would be million times better than that incompetent idiot Pashinian who has the brain of a bird. This is the man who miscalculated our strengths and weaknesses therefore, caused us to lost the war. Pashinian should be jailed. Frankly, I’m shocked that this idiot is still in power.

    • It’s this type of emotional immaturity which is rife in Armenians inside and outside of Armenia, which leads us to lurch from one crisis to another. “Anybody would be a million times better”. Ok how about who? In what way? What things have been done well which need to be continued and what things need to be improved? Most importantly what is our role and what have we done? Are you and I doing what we are saying? Our people have had a state for less than 40 years in the last millennia, that means we can’t just relax and assume our country is matured like those in the west. It means we have to build it, physically, financially, culturally and politically. We can’t be spectators. If you think you can type on a news site and hope things will improve you have lost the plot. The same rules do not apply to our state.

  3. Lets ask Hetq to investigate to find out how many of Armenian politicians do not have second citizenship (I mean Russian citizenship).

    • You guys complained about that with the old guard, but no investigation has uncovered anything.
      It’s very telling that you are upset that a guy like Sarkissian is being investigated for doing something potentially illegal.
      You don’t seem to mind corruption, as long as it’s sponsored by the West.

  4. The island of Nevis is a hotbed of offshore accounts disguised in a myriad of ways so that the true owners of the illicitly obtained money would never be found.The people who have these accounts are mostly kleptocrats, heads of states, dictators and corrupt politicians who have looted their own countries. Anyone associated with Nevis island in any manner should be mistrusted.

  5. Former President Sarkissian was articulate and a polyglot. He had connections in many countries and could communicate with all types of world leaders. If he made millions during his private life, good for him! He would have been good for Armenia if he could have more decision making power. He always wanted to connect the diaspora Armenians to the motherland and allow them to have positions in government. I think a western educated leader for Armenia would be beneficial. We need to move away from Russia’s grip and establish business and political ties with Europe and USA. More Armenians live in the diaspora than in our homeland. We do advocacy snd fundraising and charity donations without anything from our motherland? Dual-citizen Armenians should be able to work in government and the military. Let’s be United!

    • Plenty of our current politicians and activists have worked or been involved in western companies and NGOs.
      That has not benefitted us at all. The current immaturity is based on Western cultural issues permeating Armenia.
      The last thing we need are large Western companies ruling over Armenia.
      Your idea is not good, so spare us the “let’s stay united” talk. Bad ideas are bad ideas.

  6. Advice from a neighbor; Stay United. Second Citizenship is not a crime. But Compromising the integrity of the Country is a heinous crime. Remind yourself about Pandora papers about an autocrat who bought an office in London for his 11 year old son with a price tag of 67 Million Pound, and …,

  7. Armen Sargsyan had no business in Armenia. Armen was in Armenia to manage the situation regarding Amulsar, in case Armenians decided to exploit the mine. Armen was also in Armenia to ensure that Artsakh’s transition to Azerbaijani control went smoothly behind the scenes. The Amulsar agenda did not work out. The Artsakh agenda however worked out brilliantly. Having thus completed his task Armen was recalled by his bosses in London, from where he announced his resignation. In time we’ll find out if he even had Armenian citizenship.

    PS: Armen Sargsyan had high level KGB connections throughout the 1980s. That is why he was allowed to go to London, or rather was sent to London to work as a professor in the early 1980s. However, Armen switched his allegiance after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Today, he is London’s man, which is why many of you are supporting him, because UK-Armenian relations has yielded so much “benefit” to Armenia. Nevertheless, Armen still maintains contacts in Russia and he continues to be pro-Russian, at least ostensibly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*