Swiss have frozen $8 bln in financial assets under Russia sanctions

A Russian flag flies in a square in Melitopol
A flag flies in a square in the course of the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the city of Melitopol in the Zaporizhzhia region, Russian-controlled Ukraine October 13, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko/File Photo
  • Neutral Swiss freeze assets of sanctioned Russians
  • Banks report 46 billion Swiss francs in non-sanctioned wealth

ZURICH, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Switzerland has frozen financial assets worth 7.5 billion Swiss francs ($7.94 billion) as of Nov. 25 under sanctions against Russians to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) said on Thursday.

SECO, the agency overseeing sanctions, also said that 15 properties in six cantons are also "blocked". It did not name the cantons.

Up until June 3, SECO had been notified of existing deposits held by Russian nationals, and individuals and legal entities in Russia, amounting to 46.1 billion francs, it said.

This was far below the 150 billion to 200 billion Swiss francs of Russian wealth that the Swiss Bankers Association has estimated Swiss banks hold.

SECO officials said the discrepancy could reflect the fact that Russians who are also Swiss or EU citizens, or have residence there, are not covered by the measures.

Only bank deposits of at least 100,000 francs - and not securities portfolios - are subject to reporting, they added. Officials were looking into 30 cases of possible violations of reporting rules, one of which was with federal prosecutors.

Neutral Switzerland has routinely adopted European Union sanctions that aim to punish Russia for invading Ukraine, which Russia calls a "special military operation".

But pressure has mounted on Switzerland - a popular destination for Russia's elite and a holding place for Russian wealth - to more quickly identify and freeze assets of hundreds of sanctioned Russians.

As of July, Switzerland had frozen Russian financial assets worth 6.7 billion Swiss francs.

The European Commission on Wednesday proposed a plan to confiscate frozen Russian assets, but Switzerland has no legal basis at this stage to take such a step.

($1 = 0.9443 Swiss francs)

Reporting by Paul Carrel and Michael Shields, editing by Rachel More and Miranda Murray

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