Switzerland finally bans all Russian gold

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Russia’s biggest export after energy: gold.


Switzerland has banned all imports of Russian gold as part of a new set of sanctions against the country, the economics minister announced yesterday.



The golden rule


The Alpine nation has long been a global hub for importing and exporting gold. About 70% of raw gold mined all over the world is processed through Switzerland’s gold refineries. For Russia, gold is the country’s most important export after energy.



Tracing Nazi gold through Switzerland



Just days after Russia fired its first shots on Ukraine, Swiss President Ignazio Cassis said Switzerland would follow the European Union in enacting tough sanctions against Russia. The export of gold from Switzerland to Russia was prohibited then, but the import of Russian gold to Switzerland was “not prohibited by the ordinance establishing measures related to the situation in Ukraine,” according to the now outdated sanctions.


Since March, ingots produced by Russian refineries can no longer be traded in Switzerland, however those produced before March 7 “can in principle continue to be produced,” Swiss authorities said at that time.


In May, three tons of Russian gold worth more than $200 million arrived in Switzerland via a U.K. route. All four Swiss gold refineries denied having ordered the shipment or any other involvement. Moreover, the Swiss Association of Manufacturers and Traders of Precious Metals also confirmed none of its members were involved in the illegal import.


The gold could be used by a Russian oligarch for money laundering, according to Marc Ummel, a raw materials expert at Swissaid. Ummel advises the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs.


Critics of the Swiss sanctions say the country is taking steps away from its historic neutrality. Proponents say allowing Russian gold to be traded would be laundering money for Russia’s war efforts.



Swiss President Ignazio Cassis announced Switzerland’s first round of sanctions in March.


New terms


On July 21, the European Union announced stricter sanctions on Russia – “the most urgent measures in terms of time and substance” – and Swiss authorities took note


The sanctions announced this week echo the EU’s plea.


“The new measures primarily concern a ban on buying, importing or transporting gold and gold products from Russia. Services in connection with these goods are also prohibited,” the economics ministry said in a press release.


Hiding your money? Don’t use Switzerland


Since February, Swiss officials have seized a handful of chalets belonging to Russian oligarchs.


Sberbank frozen


Moreover, Switzerland’s sanctions freeze all assets in Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank. The bank is not allowed to provide funds, lend economic resources or even engage in digital services.


“New derogations are being introduced to ensure the orderly wind-down of transactions and the sale of Sberbank subsidiaries,” Swiss officials said. They added that in light of a growing worldwide food and energy crisis, Switzerland has made two exceptions regarding transactions on oil supplies and agricultural products only between Russia and third-world countries to “avoid disruption to payment channels.”


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