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Swiss target holiday home in hurried clampdown on Russian oligarchs

The Swiss authorities believe the flat belongs to Petr Aven, identified as a close confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin (pictured) Keystone / Mikhail Klimentyev / Kremlin Poo

Swiss authorities have identified a luxury mountain home believed to be owned by a Russian oligarch as bankers and officials work overtime to track assets of people linked to Moscow in retribution for the invasion of Ukraine.

This content was published on March 22, 2022 - 09:33
Reuters/ts

The Bern cantonal property office said it believed the flat belonged to Petr Aven, identified by Switzerland as a close confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a major shareholder of the group that owns Russia’s biggest private bank, Alfa.

The three-bedroom flat is on the fifth floor of a luxury complex at a golf resort in the picturesque Bernese Oberland, surrounded by snowy peaks, according to the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper.

Aven, 67, did not immediately respond to an email from Reuters seeking comment but last month he said he would contest “spurious and unfounded” European Union sanctions adopted by Switzerland.

Priding itself on being neutral in international affairs, Switzerland has an outsized wealth management business and is a major trading hub for Russian commodities. Its banks hold up to $213 billion (CHF200 billion) of Russian wealth, the bank lobby estimates.

After initial hesitation, Switzerland embraced EU sanctions on hundreds of Russians on Feb. 28. It has since expanded its list to comply fully with the EU’s measures.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday urged Switzerland to confiscate assets of people he said were helping wage war. Poland echoed that on Monday.

Combing through records

Banks are combing through records to ensure no one under sanctions slips through the cracks. Credit Suisse, for instance, has sought permission to let 20 compliance staff work nights, weekends and holidays.

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), responsible for enforcing sanctions, has been swamped with reports of Russian assets.

Property registrars across Switzerland have been laboriously trying to match sanctions lists against property records name-by-name, often with various spellings.

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