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US Commission accuses Switzerland of hiding Russian assets

The Local (news@thelocal.com)
The Local ([email protected]) • 7 May, 2022 Updated Sat 7 May 2022 15:49 CEST
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An image of the 1000 Swiss francs note on view during a press conference in 2019 in Zurich. Photo: Michele Limina/AFP

A panel of US government and congressional members has strongly criticised Switzerland’s role in sanctioning Russia and accused the country of helping the Kremlin to keep its billions safe. The Swiss government has rejected the accusations.

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The US Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe - known as the Helsinki Commission - has strongly criticised Switzerland’s perceived role in hiding Russian assets.

It said that Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and numerous oligarchs are using Switzerland to hide and protect their assets and that the close ties between Swiss and Russian authorities had exerted a corrupting influence on law enforcement personnel in Switzerland.

The commission also raised questions about the impact of Switzerland's behaviour on US national security and whether the United States should reconsider its strategic bilateral relationship with Switzerland.

The Swiss government has so far frozen 7.5 billion francs in assets in connection with sanctions imposed in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but the Swiss Bankers Association estimates that Russians living abroad have total assets in Switzerland worth between 150 to 200 billion francs.

READ ALSO: Switzerland extends sanctions on Russian assets

This discrepancy has provoked criticism against the government and accusations that it has not been resolute enough in tracking down Russian assets.

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The Swiss government has denied the accusations made by the Helsinki Commission. A spokesperson for the Swiss government said Switzerland is implementing all European Union sanctions and "is in constant exchange with all relevant actors at home and abroad, including the US.”

Experts say one of the difficulties in identifying Russian assets is that many are hidden behind nested companies.

On the other hand, lawyers and trustees in Switzerland are subject to less stringent disclosure requirements than banks, offering a potential loophole to people who want to hide their assets.

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The Local ([email protected]) 2022/05/07 15:49

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