Switzerland ends all new banking activity with Russians on EU sanctions list

Swiss President Ignazio Cassis addresses a news conference after a meeting of the Swiss government’s Bundesrat in Bern, Switzerland February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

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  • The Swiss seek solidarity with the West but keep the diplomatic door open
  • Bern says it has held talks with unspecified parties
  • Watchdog tells banks to suspend new business with those on EU list

ZURICH, Feb 25 (Reuters) – Switzerland on Friday asked its banks to end all new business with people and entities on a European Union sanctions blacklist, which the neutral country has adopted to s to ensure that it is not used to circumvent measures against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

The instruction from the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) reinforces the pressure Bern is exerting in solidarity with the West while trying to keep the door open to a potential mediating role.

“It is therefore prohibited for financial intermediaries in Switzerland to establish new business relationships with the persons and companies newly listed in Annex 3. Financial intermediaries are also required to declare existing business relationships with these persons, companies and organizations to (government service) SECO without delay,” FINMA said on its website.

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The government had previously changed soundorder on the watch list to include 363 people and four companies that the EU had placed on its sanctions list this week to punish Moscow.

Russians held nearly 10.4 billion Swiss francs ($11.21 billion) in Switzerland in 2020, according to data from the Swiss National Bank. Read more

“For the Federal Council (cabinet), it is clear that Switzerland will directly adopt all EU measures concerning persons and groups. For example, these persons are no longer allowed to enter Switzerland,” the minister said. of the Economy Guy Parmelin during a press conference in Bern. Friday.

But that hasn’t stopped Switzerland from acting as a broker to help end the conflict, officials said.

“Our position, and above all my goal, is to keep the doors open so that we can do what most other countries can no longer do – keep the channels open between countries that no longer have diplomatic relations. Switzerland can bring this added value.” said President and Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis.

It was difficult for Switzerland to offer itself as a mediator because it had to wait to be approached, Cassis said. But he added: “We are in contact and have had talks.”

He did not specify with whom Switzerland had been in contact. ($1 = 0.9278 Swiss francs)

(This story corrects headline and story throughout, to clearly state that FINMA told banks to suspend new business, not to freeze assets, after FINMA corrected statement on its website. )

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Reporting by Michael Shields and Paul Carrel; Editing by Nick Macfie and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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