(Bloomberg) -- A group of about 100 Russians and businesses reported nearly $50 billion in Swiss deposits, the government said in its most detailed disclosure yet of Russian wealth stashed in the country’s banks.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Switzerland banned banks from taking more than 100,000 Swiss francs ($106,000) from Russians and said all existing deposits must be reported to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs by the start of June. A total of 123 Russian citizens or entities reported 7,548 “business relationships” to the body, accounting for 46.1 billion francs in assets, SECO said Thursday.
Although that tally only accounts for deposits over 100,000 francs, banks in the country hold at least 150 billion francs in Russian assets, the Swiss Bankers Association has said separately.
Switzerland’s tally of frozen Russian assets rebounded to 7.5 billion francs in November, SECO said as the government stepped up efforts to block sanctioned Russians from tapping their villas, bank accounts and other assets. Authorities also blocked 15 properties in six cantons, according to SECO.
“The sanctioned amount is only a fraction of all Russian assets in Switzerland,” said Erwin Bollinger, SECO’s head of bilateral economic relations.
The Swiss government’s decision to embrace European Union sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been strongly criticized by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party for sacrificing the country’s historic neutrality for the sake of sanctions.
But others have blasted Switzerland for being too soft on some sanctioned Russians. Swiss authorities in May unfroze accounts held by Eurochem Group AG founded by fertilizer billionaire Andrey Melnichenko. He withdrew as beneficiary of a trust that holds the shares of EuroChem through a holding company, leaving his wife as the beneficiary of the trust.
Melnichenko has said he has no political affiliations to the Kremlin and has filed a court challenge against European Union sanctions imposed on him in March.
By comparison, the EU has blocked some €300 billion ($311 billion) in Russian central bank reserves and frozen around €19 billion in assets held by sanctioned Russian businessmen, although these estimates aren’t complete.
The Swiss government has also been criticized for trying to have it both ways. Its refusal to grant Germany the right to re-export to Ukraine Swiss-made tank ammunition it had sold to its northern neighbor was dismissed as “completely incomprehensible” by a prominent German politician.
(Updates with Melnichenko’s relationship to Eurochem in sixth paragraph. An earlier version corrected the change in Melnichenko’s beneficiary status in story first published Dec. 1.)
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.
BNN Bloomberg Picks
Opportunities in luxury retail: Three hot picks from John San Marco
Majority of Canadians determined to own a home despite affordability challenges: Survey
Started a side hustle? Seek expert advice to avoid tax season headaches
It's possible to have 'too much' in your RRSP: Tax expert
Food prices set to increase — again — as blackout on price hikes ends at some stores
WestJet temporarily suspends service from 3 Canadian cities to Europe