Gazprom’s Swiss bank branch seeks buyer

The Swiss branch of Gazprombank, snubbed by Switzerland's banking sector since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, announced on Friday it is looking for a potential buyer.

A photo shows the logo of German second division Bundesliga football club FC Schalke 04's main sponsor Russian gas company Gazprom at the Veltins-Arena stadium in Gelsenkirchen, western Germany, on February 25, 2022. - German football club Schalke 04 said on February 24, 2022 it would remove Russian gas company Gazprom as its main shirt sponsor following the invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP)
Nord Stream parent company Gazprom. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP)

Its parent company, the financial arm of the Russian gas giant Gazprom, has “decided to explore potential strategic options” for its future activities, the bank said.

“These options include, but are not limited to, potential divestment of selected assets or the sale of the business as a whole,” it said in a statement.

This strategic review, which also envisages “finding an investor if such option is pursued”, should be completed by the end of the third quarter.

Sanctions on Russia: Is Switzerland still a neutral nation?

It invited interested parties to contact its representatives in Switzerland. Based in Zurich, Gazprombank Switzerland has been established in the Alpine country since 2009.

It is mainly active in trade finance and employs around 80 people, a spokesperson told AFP.

Gazprombank is the sole shareholder.

Gazprombank Switzerland was expelled from the Swiss Bankers Association in March in the weeks following the invasion of Ukraine.

The SBA, which defends the interests of some 300 Swiss banking establishments, had also banned the Swiss subsidiary of the Russian bank Sberbank.

Switzerland is an important hub for the trading of commodities such as oil, metals and agricultural materials, leading banking giants to create subsidiaries under Swiss law to provide services to investors and traders.

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Switzerland bans imports of Russian gold

Switzerland, a key refiner and manufacturer of gold bars, is banning imports of the precious metal from Russia, the government said Wednesday.

Switzerland bans imports of Russian gold

The central government aligned itself with EU sanctions which, on July 21, added a ban on gold imports of Russian origin to the list of restrictions following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The ban came into effect at 6:00 pm on Wednesday, Switzerland’s Federal Council said in a statement.

Under the new sanctions, Switzerland forbids “buying, importing or transporting gold and gold products from Russia”, the statement said, adding that “services in connection with these goods are also prohibited”.

Traditionally neutral, Switzerland broke with its usual stance in the days after the start of the war in Ukraine by aligning itself with European Union economic sanctions.

In May, three tons of gold from Russia were imported from Britain, but it was not clear which company was responsible for bringing it to Switzerland, Bloomberg News reported.

The Swiss Association of Manufacturers and Traders in Precious Metals (ASFCMP), which represents the country’s largest refineries, contacted its members and said none of them were responsible for the imports.

The association insisted that “doubtful gold” had “no place in Switzerland” and urged its members to act “with the utmost caution”.

Swiss customs said at the time they were examining the imports in light of the sanctions, but insisted that gold imports from Russia were not banned.

While gold exports were already subject to sanctions, imports were not banned under the sanctions order, customs officials said.

The fourth package of sanctions imposed by the EU included luxury goods, banning the sale, supply, transfer or export of luxury goods to Russia, including gold, silver, pearls and diamonds.

But on July 21, the EU also explicitly added a ban on importing gold from Russia, including in the form of powder, debris or gold coins.

Switzerland has several refineries to recycle gold and melt ingots.

The sector employs 1,500 people, according to ASFCMP.