Switzerland has frozen some 5.75 billion francs (5.62 billion euros) in Russian assets. This has been announced by the Swiss State Office for Economic Affairs (SECO). According to government sources, the Russian capital stored in Switzerland will continue to increase in the future.
“Today, for the first time, I can give an indication of the amount of assets saved,” says Erwin Bollinger, who manages sanctions on behalf of SECO. “SECO has been informed that there is a total of 5.75 billion Swiss francs in funds and assets frozen so far.”
The tip of the iceberg
A neutral country therefore provides a first glimpse of the scope of sanctions. Switzerland caused consternation when it decided to join Western sanctions against Russia. Because of its policy of neutrality and the strict determination with which the country’s banks protect their customers, Switzerland’s entry into international sanctions comes as a surprise slap to Russian oligarchs.
Switzerland is also popular with high net worth individuals due to bank secrecy, which hides part of their assets from the tax authorities in their home country. Last week, the Swiss Banking Association already calculated that the total Russian assets parked in Swiss bank accounts would fluctuate between 144 and 192 billion euros. The current 5.75 billion that have been frozen is only the tip of the iceberg.
“The quoted number of more than 5 billion francs is only a summary,” says Bollinger, “as many new reports continue to arrive and the list of EU sanctions may expand, it is very likely that this number will continue to increase.”
“This is not a fishing trip”
However, some critics believe that the Swiss authorities are moving too slowly. Tracking private assets is a big job and SECO would not be ready enough for this. However, Bollenger tells Reuters that for that task, authorities “cannot just go on a fishing trip and collect material from all government departments.”
In addition, Bollinger says that not every Russian cent in Switzerland qualifies for sanctions. “Not every Russian organization or individual on the sanctions list has assets in Switzerland. The same situation applies the other way around, because not every Russian who has assets in Switzerland is on the sanctions list.
At the same time, Russian oligarchs are fleeing to countries that follow “neutral” policies. For example, both Israel and Turkey have already become popular destinations where oligarchs are looking at options for moving parts of their wealth.