Switzerland’s secretive banks hold as much as $213 billion of Russian wealth, according to estimates by the country’s financial industry association, after sanctions on Russia provided a glimpse inside Swiss vaults.
The Swiss Bankers Association The SBA estimated that the banks hold between 150 billion and 200 billion Swiss francs ($213 billion) of money from Russian customers.
This indicates that the scope of the wealthy Russians’ dealings with banks in Switzerland, the world’s largest hub of wealth among tax havens, is much broader than the balance sheet exposures that several of its financial firms have begun to detail.
The SBA disclosure is unusual in Switzerland, which has stymied many previous transparency requestsand comes as he has taken the unusual step of applying European Union sanctions to Russian money following the invasion of Ukraine by Moscow last month.
Swiss public opinion is increasingly debating their role, and Mattea Meyer, co-chair of the Social Democrats, has called for Switzerland to clamp down on cash belonging to Russians close to President Vladimir Putin and his government.
“A part belongs to oligarchs loyal to the Kremlin. The money and their activity … help finance the war,” he said, adding that Switzerland “must do everything possible to turn off the money taps.”
The SBA estimate, which dwarfs the initials on credit exposure to Russia, makes clear the magnitude of the task of imposing sanctions, such as freezing cash.
Despite its estimate of the Russian count, the SBA stressed that it was small compared to total assets in Switzerland, which has been regarded by generations of millionaires around the world as a haven for their money.
“The share of assets held by Russian clients probably represents a single-digit percentage of total cross-border assets held in Swiss banks,” he said in a statement emailed to Reuters on Wednesday, referring to money held for customers residing abroad.
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