It is a staggering number, which drives people crazy. The amount of the hoard of Russian oligarchs sheltered in Switzerland oscillates between 150 and 200 billion Swiss francs (143 and 190 billion euros), deposits and assets mixed, according to the Swiss Bankers Association. “If the Swiss bankers recognize it, then we can easily double the amount”, struck the Anglo-American banker Bill Browder, who has been tracking the financial turpitudes of the Kremlin and his associates for a decade, after he was robbed in Russia and his Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, died in prison in Moscow . The man intervened last week before a committee of the American Congress which seeks to clarify the role of Switzerland, “long known as a destination for war criminals and kleptocrats to hide their loot, and a top ally of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and his cronies.”
The exchanges soon turned into an indictment of Bern’s supposed ill will in enforcing sanctions against Russia. Only 7.5 billion Swiss francs (7.15 billion euros) have been frozen so far. “There is something seriously rotten in Switzerland”, thundered Bill Browder. In Bern, the Federal Council (government) immediately denounced “politically unacceptable allegations”while the incumbent, Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis, informed the US State Department of his “outrage”. According to government spokesman André Simonazzi, Switzerland applies international standards against money laundering and tax evasion.
“Card game of the oligarchs in Switzerland”
The banishment of Russia by the international community caused a brutal realignment of the balance of power, including financial, for which Switzerland was not prepared. In recent days, voices are beginning to rise demanding that the executive move up a gear and realize the importance of the moment.
“Our authorities are acting as if they wanted to preserve the relationship between the Swiss financial center and the great Russian fortunes, because one day the war will be over, and it would be a shame to deprive ourselves of this sector which has brought in so much. The Ministry of Economy, for example, has not set up a particular structure to identify Russian funds, and does not participate in the efforts of Washington and the EU”explains Geneva Green MP Nicolas Walder, member of the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.
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