Switzerland confirms it holds $14.3 billion in FROZEN Russian assets
04/25/2024 // Richard Brown // Views

Switzerland has disclosed that it currently holds an estimated 13 billion Swiss francs ($14.3 billion) in Russian assets, frozen within its financial institutions.

These assets are divided evenly between state-owned holdings and those belonging to private individuals, as revealed by the national agency responsible for overseeing sanctions. While the value of Russia's state assets remains steady, Swiss authorities noted a significant decrease in the value of privately owned funds.

As of the end of December, approximately 5.8 billion Swiss francs ($6.3 billion) in funds and properties linked to sanctioned Russian entities or individuals were frozen in Switzerland. This marks a notable decline from the 7.5 billion francs ($8.2 billion) recorded at the close of 2022, according to the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

SECO attributed this decrease to a loss in value of certain blocked assets, particularly securities associated with Russia, due to international sanctions. Additionally, the 7.24 billion francs ($7.9 billion) in assets held by the Central Bank of Russia have also been frozen in Switzerland.

Last year, Swiss authorities announced the freezing of an additional 580 million francs ($636 million) in financial assets and two additional properties following their own investigations and detailed clarifications by banks. (Related: Russia vows to respond in kind if West seizes its frozen assets.)

The current estimate includes various assets such as 17 properties, luxury cars, artworks, furniture and musical instruments belonging to sanctioned Russian individuals.

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Furthermore, the agency disclosed that 140 million francs ($153.5 million) in frozen funds had been released after further investigations determined that the legal requirements for their freezing were not met.

Despite not being a member of the European Union (EU) and maintaining its neutral status, Switzerland has aligned itself with the West's Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia.

While closely monitoring EU discussions regarding the potential seizure of frozen Russian assets to aid Ukraine, the Swiss government has not yet outlined specific plans to take such action.

Russia questions legitimacy of asset freezes, calls it THEFT

Moscow has consistently contested the legitimacy of asset freezes, denouncing the practice as "theft" and cautioning against potential countermeasures should the West proceed with confiscating the funds.

Last March, Swiss lawmakers narrowly supported measures aimed at utilizing frozen Russian state assets to contribute to war reparations in Ukraine, a topic sparking intense debate in a country highly valuing banking discretion and neutrality.

With a vote of 21-19 and three abstentions, the Council of States – the upper house of the Swiss Parliament – backed a series of government-endorsed motions, mirroring decisions made by the National Council – the lower house – last year.

These motions lay the groundwork for the Swiss government to pursue an international legal framework enabling the use of frozen assets from aggressor states for reparations in attacked nations.

Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis emphasized Russia's breach of international law since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, asserting the need for reparations. Switzerland aims to actively participate in international discussions to develop mechanisms for compensation.

The lively debate in the upper chamber raised concerns about potential damage to Switzerland's neutral image and questioned the country's response amidst conflict in Europe.

Cassis defended Switzerland's actions, citing substantial financial support provided to affected populations and plans for future assistance and peace initiatives.

Switzerland maintains a position of well-armed military neutrality, refraining from sending arms to Ukraine or allowing the re-exportation of Swiss-made weaponry to the country. However, it aligns with the EU's economic sanctions against Russia.

As of May last year, Switzerland held 7.4 billion Swiss francs ($8.1 billion) of Russian central bank reserves and assets, alongside freezing 7.5 billion francs ($8.2 billion) in Russian funds and assets owned by sanctioned entities or individuals.

The country's allure as a destination for wealthy Russians and their assets remains evident, with Russian clients holding an estimated 150 billion Swiss francs ($164.2 billion) in Swiss banks as of March 2022, according to the Swiss Bankers Association.

Watch this report about Congress spending $100 billion on war with Russia, China and Iran.

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More related stories:

IMF says SEIZURE of frozen Russian assets must have sufficient legal support.

Spain’s idea to help Ukraine using SEIZED profits from frozen Russian assets deemed unviable.

CONTORTIONIST ACT: G7 experts claim that seizing frozen Russian assets is legal given Russia's "unlawful conduct" toward Ukraine.

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