Switzerland stops Russians bypassing EU sanctions

The European Sanctions blog by Maya Lester, Brick Court Chambers & Michael O’Kane, Peters & Peters Solicitors LLP.

On 5 August 2014, Switzerland announced that 26 entities and 18 individuals have been added to the Swiss watchlist, which is designed to prevent individuals and companies in Russia subject to sanctions by the west from using structures in Switzerland to circumvent the restrictions.

The Swiss Economy Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann reiterated during an interview last weekend that Switzerland “[isn’t] going to adopt sanctions for one”, but said that “we will make sure … that Switzerland can’t be used to circumvent the sanctions. And that has to remain our policy for the foreseeable future”.

Switzerland has resisted pressure from Europe to impose sanctions on Moscow, but has added names to its blacklist because of Russia’s perceived intervention in the Ukraine crisis. The additional names include rebel leaders Aleksandr Borodai and Alexander Khodakovsky, as well as senior figures in Russia’s security establishment.

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A total of 87 individuals and 20 companies are now banned from transferring assets into Switzerland or entering into new business relationships with Swiss financial institutions. Swiss institutions with existing relationships with any of the individuals or companies listed must report any transactions they do with those listed.

While Switzerland has attempted to retain a non-interventionist stance in the crisis, as a party to the Schengen Agreement it is obliged to implement the travel bans that have been imposed by the EU. Despite not imposing sanctions of its own, the move brings Switzerland more closely into step with the tougher EU and US sanctions that have been imposed on Russia since July.

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