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Russian asset freeze reaches CHF5.75bn in Switzerland

Pile of Swiss franc bank notes
The value of sanctioned assets is expected to rise as further measures are taken. © Keystone / Ti-press / Alessandro Crinari

The Swiss authorities have so far frozen some CHF5.75 billion ($6.2 billion) of sanctioned Russian oligarch assets, with the total expected to rise as the European Union announces further measures.

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco), the government department responsible for handling sanctions, announced the figure on Thursday.

The total of blocked assets includes properties in tourist regions, but Seco declined to give any details of affected individuals.  

Erwin Bollinger, head of Seco’s Bilateral Economic Relations department, said the assets have been frozen but not confiscated as there is no legal basis to take away ownership rights.

This means in effect that the money and property cannot be transferred, sold or used as collateral for loans.

Seco is working with cantons to identify Russian owned properties in land registries. The department is also searching for sanctioned assets, such as art or gold bullion, stored in Swiss free ports.

The Swiss Bankers Association has estimated that Swiss vaults hold up to CHF200 billion in Russian assets but did not say how much of this amount is subject to sanctions.

At first, Switzerland refused to freeze assets when Russia invaded Ukraine, saying this would impair its neutrality. But the government was forced to change its mind following concerted pressure both within Switzerland and from abroad.

At present, Switzerland applies sanctions to 874 individuals and 62 corporate entities. This number is likely to increase with the EU planning further sanctions.

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