Switzerland ups tally of frozen Russian assets

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Switzerland has an estimated 7.7 billion Swiss francs ($8.81 billion) of Russian assets frozen in its financial institutions, the national agency overseeing sanctions announced late last week.

While the figure is a provisional estimate and may be subject to change, it represents an increase on the 7.5 billion francs the Swiss authorities said they blocked last year. The current estimate includes properties and luxury cars belonging to sanctioned Russians, as well as profits from cash deposits, bonds, and shares.

The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) noted that calculating precise figures with regard to frozen funds is tricky due to constant additions to sanctions lists. Over the past 12 months, some 300 individuals and 100 companies from Russia have been newly sanctioned. Court proceedings to freeze or unlock assets also distort the overall picture.

On top of personal funds, Swiss banks hold 7.4 billion francs in foreign currency assets that belong to the Russian central bank, SECO said.

According to estimates by the Swiss Bankers Association, frozen assets make up only a small part of funds held by Russians in the country. Recent estimates showed that overall holdings amount to some 150 billion francs.

Despite not being an EU member and considering itself a neutral state, Switzerland supported the West’s Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia. The Swiss government said on more than one occasion that it was closely following EU discussions on the prospect of seizing frozen Russian assets to aid Ukraine, but has not yet voiced plans to do so. Swiss bankers have previously warned that the measure would risk breaking national laws and would jeopardize its image as a global financial center.

Russia has repeatedly called the freezing of its assets unlawful.

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