Swiss pledge no new business for Russians sanctioned by EU

Switzerland itself is not issuing its own sanctions or directly enforcing the EU sanctions. PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA (BLOOMBERG) - Switzerland said it will not allow the European Union's sanctions against Russia to be circumvented locally by prohibiting targeted Russian individuals or companies from opening new accounts with Swiss banks.

"Financial intermediaries in Switzerland are now prohibited from entering into new business relationships" with the latest list of 363 people and four companies announced by the EU, the government said in a statement on Friday (Feb 25). "At the same time, financial intermediaries are obliged to immediately report existing business relationships with these individuals, companies and organisations," it said.

Top Swiss ministers who spoke on Friday did not spell out how they might act on information reported to them. The government said in the statement that it's making a "further adjustment" to bolster its sanctions ordinance and prevent any circumventions, but didn't give details.

The ministers sought to reiterate that the country, whose banks have long attracted Russian wealth, are taking a tough line on the Russian elite, even if Switzerland itself is not issuing its own sanctions or directly enforcing the EU sanctions.

Economics Minister Guy Parmelin told reporters that while he understood people might be frustrated and want the country to do more, the Swiss policy of neutrality and diplomacy is one that is decades-old and "respected and understood" in the EU.

Switzerland has begun to evacuate its embassy in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv but plans to keep a skeleton staff of six or seven officials, Swiss President Ignazio Cassis also said at the briefing.

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