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Switzerland won’t join G7 task force on Russian oligarch money

Picture of Swiss parliament with mountains in the background
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives rejected a proposal from the Green Party by 101 votes to 80. Keystone / /Peter Klaunzer

According to the House of Representatives, Switzerland should not join the international task force to track down Russian oligarchs’ money.  

Switzerland won’t join the G7’s REPO (Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs) task force, which is tasked with tracking down Russian assets. On Wednesday, the House of Representatives rejected a proposal from the Green Party by 101 votes to 80. 

Switzerland does not have a formal working group to implement the international economic sanctions against Russia. “However, as a manager of Russian assets and a major commodities trader, Switzerland bears a major responsibility in this area. This membership would send out a clear political signal,” according to Franziska Ryser, from the Green Party.  


“Switzerland cannot support Ukraine militarily. Therefore, it is all the more important to act where we can,” continued Ryser. According to estimates, between CHF150 billion ($164.9 billion) and CHF200 billion of Russian funds are deposited in Swiss banks, particularly by individuals on the sanctions list. 

However, Switzerland has only frozen CHF7.5 billion so far. “It’s hardly surprising that this has provoked international criticism,” said Ryser.  

“Switzerland’s participation is not a threat to its autonomy, but a way of showing that we are taking the sanctions seriously”, argued Social Democrat Laurence Fehlmann Rielle on behalf of the committee. “Neutrality does not mean indifference. Moreover, REPO’s decisions are not binding. After accession, Switzerland could always decide whether or not to resume additional sanctions against Russia.”  

Fears on the right 

But right-wing politicians were not convinced. “When it comes to sanctions, Switzerland is already working with numerous countries and organisations, including REPO, at a technical level. It is doing its job, and even better than other countries,” countered Hans-Peter Portmann from the Radical-Liberal Party.  

+Despite criticism, the Swiss say they’re model enforcers of Russia sanctions

“This working group is a political instrument of the G7. The pressure from the United States to take back all their sanctions will be enormous. Switzerland must not allow itself to be dragged along, because it will be fundamentally weakened in its role of mediation and good offices,” said Portmann.  

The Swiss government was also opposed. Cooperation with REPO is going well and will continue, said Federal Councillor Beat Jans, who was standing in for his colleague Guy Parmelin, who is responsible for this dossier. There is therefore no need to go any further. 

In the vote, the Swiss People’s Party and Radical-Liberal Party won out against the left. The Centre and the Liberal Green Party were divided. 


Switzerland under international pressure over Russian sanctions

The REPO working group was set up in March 2022 by the G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and the United States), the European Union (EU) and Australia. No other country has joined to date. 

Last year, the Swiss government refused to take part. The Federal Office of Justice had already informed Switzerland’s executive body, the Federal Council, in February 2023 of its analysis that the confiscation of private assets of legal origin for the reconstruction of Ukraine, which is one of the objectives of REPO, would be contrary to the Federal Constitution. 

Switzerland then came under international pressure: in June 2023, the so-called Helsinki Commission, a body of the US government and parliament, criticised Switzerland’s sanctions policy. 

In a letter, the ambassadors of the G7 countries demanded that Switzerland cooperate more closely in the search for the assets of Russian oligarchs. The Federal Council rejected the criticism, arguing that the amount of assets frozen in Switzerland was respectable by international standards. 

Translated from German by DeepL/sp 

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