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23 Apr, 2024 14:52

‘Neutral’ Switzerland blocking $14 billion worth of Russian assets

The value of the funds dropped by nearly $2 billion last year, Swiss authorities have revealed
‘Neutral’ Switzerland blocking $14 billion worth of Russian assets

Switzerland is holding an estimated 13 billion francs ($14.3 billion) in Russian assets frozen in its financial institutions, around half of which belongs to the state and half to private individuals, the national agency overseeing sanctions revealed on Tuesday.

While the value of Russia’s state assets remains unchanged, Swiss authorities reported a sharp drop in the value of privately owned funds.

As of the end of December, a total of 5.8 billion francs ($6.3 billion) in funds and properties belonging to sanctioned Russian individuals or entities was frozen in Switzerland, authorities have said. The figure represents a 1.7 billion franc ($1.9 billion) decline from the 7.5 billion francs registered at the end of 2022, according to the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

“The decrease is explained by a loss in value of certain blocked assets – particularly securities related to Russia – as a result of international sanctions,” SECO said in a statement.

The sum is separate from the 7.24 billion francs ($7.9 billion) in assets belonging to the Russian central bank, which has also been blocked in Switzerland.

Swiss authorities said last year that they had frozen an additional 580 million francs ($636 million) in financial assets and two more properties, following their own investigations and “detailed clarifications” by banks. The current estimate includes 17 properties, luxury cars, works of art, furniture and musical instruments belonging to sanctioned Russians.

The agency also revealed that 140 million francs ($153.5 million) in frozen funds had been released “after further investigations found the legal requirements for their freezing were not met.”

Despite not being an EU member and considering itself to be a neutral state, Switzerland has supported the West’s Ukraine-related sanctions on Russia. The Swiss government said on more than one occasion that it had been closely following EU discussions on the prospect of seizing frozen Russian assets to aid Ukraine, but has yet to outline plans to do so.

Moscow has repeatedly challenged the legitimacy of the asset freezes, slamming the practice as “theft” and warning of countermeasures should the West move to confiscate the funds.