ZURICH, April 2 Russian officials sanctioned by
the European Union will be barred from new business interests in
Switzerland but billionaires included on the U.S. sanctions list
face no restrictions, the Swiss government said on Wednesday.
Switzerland decided last week against imposing its own
sanctions in response to the Ukraine crisis, but promised not to
become a place to circumvent sanctions imposed elsewhere.
In a statement on Wednesday, it fleshed out its plans to
make sure people on the EU list - 33 politicians and security
officials - could not use Switzerland to bypass the EU rules,
but did not mention those sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury.
A spokeswoman for the Swiss State Secretariat for Economics
(SECO) later confirmed to Reuters that only the individuals on
the EU sanctions list were affected by the Swiss measures.
The United States and the EU have both imposed personal
sanctions against Russian and Crimean officials involved in last
month's seizure of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine.
Washington has also targeted a bank and several Russian
billionaires, including Gennady Timchenko, whose sale of his
shareholding in Geneva-based oil trader Gunvor narrowly averted
collateral damage to the Swiss commodity trading sector.
Switzerland, a global commodity trading and private banking
hub, is a popular destination for Russia's wealthy elite and
reluctant to take steps it fears could compromise its cherished
neutrality or damage closely-nurtured trade ties with Moscow.
Switzerland has already been under pressure for years over
its secrecy laws, which helped make it the world's biggest
offshore financial centre but drew the ire of countries seeking
to fight tax evasion - especially the United States, but also
Germany and France.
In its statement the government said financial
intermediaries in Switzerland would be prohibited from entering
into new business relationships with the 33 Russians and
Crimeans on the EU's sanctions list.
This means those named on the list will not be allowed to
transfer assets to Switzerland that they hold outside of the EU,
it said. Assets within the EU are already blocked by the EU
Existing business relationships will not be subject to the
ban but must be reported to SECO, including details of
beneficiaries, purpose and value, so that the government can
gain an overview of the what relationships and assets the
persons concerned have in Switzerland.
The measures will come into force at 1600 GMT on Wednesday.
Depending on how the situation develops, the government left
open the possibility of taking further action.
Russian assets in Swiss banks stood at nearly 13.8 billion
Swiss francs ($15.6 billion) in 2012, with another 2.5 billion
held by fiduciaries according to the most recent data from the
Swiss National Bank. This does not include private banking funds
or other assets such as precious metals and real estate.
(Reporting by Caroline Copley and Tom Miles; Editing by