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Switzerland cracks down on Russian sanctions evasion

by Martin Fornusek February 21, 2024 3:09 PM 2 min read
The Federal Palace, Switzerland's parliament building, in Bern, Switzerland, March 2023. (Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
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Switzerland is ramping up efforts to prevent companies and individuals from using the country to circumvent sanctions imposed against Russia, Reuters reported on Feb. 21.

Despite its long-standing policy of neutrality, the Alpine country has joined the international sanctions imposed against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and provided Kyiv with humanitarian, political, and economic aid.

Switzerland's State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) said it had launched an investigative task force to enforce the sanctions and investigate potential breaches. Some 230 have been recorded since the start of the full-scale war in Ukraine.

This has so far led to 47 proceedings, of which 20 were dropped, and nine resulted in fines of various severity. The majority of them were related to breaches in the luxury goods trade or products that were important for Russia's war effort.

Switzerland's Federal Prosecutor's Office announced last week that it is also looking into several cases of possible breaches.

The Group of Seven (G7) countries criticized Bern last year for slow progress in cracking down on sanctions circumvention and in freezing Russian assets.

According to Reuters, some 7.7 billion Swiss francs ($8.5 billion) out of an estimated 150 billion Swiss francs ($170.4 billion) in Russian assets held in Swiss accounts were frozen in 2023.

Zelensky: Switzerland agrees to host Global Peace Summit
President Volodymyr Zelensky said that during his talks with his Swiss counterpart, the two leaders agreed to start preparations for holding the Global Peace Summit at the level of state leaders in Switzerland.

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