The Swiss government has taken yet another step in its campaign to curtail Russian wealth there after releasing an unusual declaration about the volume of Russian financial assets held in Swiss banks. The target this time around: the “luxury mountain home” of billionaire Petr Aven, a Russian businessman with alleged ties to Vladimir Putin, according to a recent Reuters report.
Now, a three-bedroom luxury apartment that Swiss officials claim belongs to Aven is the property of the Swiss government. The apartment is situated inside a golf resort complex in the Bernese Oberland. Aven hasn’t commented publicly on the action as of this writing, but last month he reportedly denied any wrongdoing and announced his intention to dispute what he called “spurious and unfounded” sanctions being imposed by the European Union.
via Getty Images, Konstantin ZAVRAZHIN/Gamma-Rapho
As a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Switzerland has abandoned its long-held policy of maintaining international neutrality and has started to abide by all EU sanctions affecting hundreds of Russian oligarchs who own property there. Numerous assets are housed in Switzerland, a well-known tax haven and hub for global wealth, and enforcing all these additional restrictions is proving to be a bureaucratic and legal problem. The Reuters report claims:
Some Swiss citizens accuse the government of deliberately assisting the sale of Russian assets to avoid sanctions and asset seizures as justification for the government’s tardiness in adhering to EU penalties. The case of a certain nameless Russian oligarch who owned a company in Switzerland is mentioned by Mark Pieth, chair of the Basel Institute on Governance. He was reportedly placed on the list of Swiss sanctions a full week after the initial EU sanctions, which gave him time to sell off his interest in the company before his assets were frozen. Pieth claims
“They either acted with stupidity or with the intention of letting these Russian interests leave the country. Switzerland, a nation that is still attempting to reach a final agreement before having to add people to the sanctions list, is once more enhancing its reputation internationally. It’s an extremely odd interpretation of neutrality.”
However, Petr Aven’s holiday property being seized shows that Switzerland is prepared to enact these international penalties, and it seems that those attempts will continue for some time.
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