Bankers “were not only surprised, but also shocked that Switzerland had abandoned its neutral status,” said a board member of a Swiss bank that oversees operations with Asian clients. According to the banker, literally hundreds of customers who “intended to open accounts have now given up doing so”.
The same was told to the newspaper by the executives of six other largest Swiss banks, which are among the top ten. Many of the Financial Times’ interlocutors admitted to fearing a slowdown in business development. Notably, wealthy Asian customers account for 10% of Switzerland’s GDP.
Recall that Switzerland has blocked Russian assets worth $8.1 billion under sanctions. And Credit Suisse has blocked or frozen more than a third of Russian assets registered in Switzerland, or more than $19 billion.
According to Aleksey Portansky, a professor at the Faculty of Global Economics and Global Politics, Graduate School of Economics, National Research University, senior researcher at IMEMO RAS, wealthy clients from Asia can start transferring their finances in the United Arab Emirates.
“For example, keeping cash in Panama is completely unreliable. Also, Chinese companies are already under pressure from states due to trade wars. So, of course, this is most likely the Arab world. It could well become the” new Switzerland “, – says Portansky.
According to Alexander Pushko, deputy director of the Institute of Communication Management at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, the first blow to the blue chip reputation of Swiss banks came 16 years ago.
Thus, the troubles for the largest Swiss bank UBS began with the accusation by the US Department of Justice of harboring clients suspected of tax evasion. The US authorities’ requirement ordered Swiss banks “…to disclose confidential data on 52,000 customers, in whose accounts approximately US$14.8 billion are stored, who failed to report to the service.” US tax”.
In Switzerland, a discussion has started on the right to banking secrecy. Passions raged for more than six months, and already in October 2008, the Swiss tax authorities announced that they were ready to provide the US Department of Justice with data on the accounts of US clients of UBS, notes Pushko. As a result, in February 2009, Switzerland’s largest bank UBS agreed to close offshore accounts and pay a US$780 million fine to the US side.
“Thus, under the pressure of the American “partners”, the centuries-old traditions of the Swiss banking system, which damnedly guarded banking secrecy, collapsed. Already then, many understood that the Swiss banks could not withstand the American pressure and that their reputation was tarnished,” the expert said.
According to the expert, this largely explains why the Swiss authorities have joined almost all European sanctions against Russia since February 24, 2022, following which Russian assets worth $8.1 billion have been taken. blocked.
“As part of the adoption of the 10th EEC sanctions package, one of the main objectives of which is to try to end the circumvention of sanctions against Russia, wealthy customers of Turkey and the countries of our near abroad may be in danger, as these are the gates through which Russia largely circumvents thousands of sanctions,” Pushko explained.
Of course, these measures of the Swiss did not go unnoticed in the world – many wealthy Chinese customers began to withdraw their assets from the accounts of Swiss banks, rightly fearing that their accounts would be frozen. The reputation of Swiss banks has suffered another serious blow, the expert believes.
Many states have thought about the current prosperity of the West – a comfortable and prosperous place to place their assets and invest. An example of Russia, against which a record number of sanctions have been introduced in recent years (more than 12,000), the blocking of gold and currency reserves and the closure of the banking system from international payments. These actions have become indicative for other States.
The United States, which needs an influx of capital to support its economy, is repelling investors from other countries with sanctions against the Russian Federation: they are simply not sure that they will not lose their money if the House Blanche suddenly designs new restrictions (this time against China, India or any other country). This was told to Rossiyskaya Gazeta by the head of the analytical department of the Telegram channel “MarketsMoneyVlast” Sergey Rachmaninoff.
“We are now witnessing new global changes in the capital and investment market, when previously recognized protective assets are no longer considered as such,” he explained.
Additionally, Bloomberg notes that the EU cannot find most Russian assets in order to freeze them.
Thus, in 2019, the volume of Russian direct investments in the EU was estimated at 136 billion euros, while the EU froze Russian assets worth 20.9 billion euros.
According to Alexei Portansky, these assets are very cleverly hidden through various multi-stage holdings. Research should be taken very seriously by financial intelligence.
It is noteworthy that according to the publication, Belgium has become a leader among countries in terms of the number of frozen assets. At the same time, Greece and Malta posted “insignificant figures”: €212,000 and €222.5,000 respectively.
“There were significant financial flows through Belgium. This is related to trade, diamonds (there are four diamond exchanges in Belgium) and, in general, trade with the EU,” Portansky concluded.
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