Greetings from Zurich!
The role of Swiss ‘facilitators’ in the movement of Russian assets has once again been called into question. Several legal and financial professionals have been sanctioned by the US, accused of helping Russian oligarchs launder money or hide business operations behind opaque structures. But first, the news.
In the news: Unions demand a fair wage, the value of old money and plastic pollution.
- Not everyone in Switzerland is well off. Some 500,000 people collect monthly salaries of less than CHF4,500, which puts them on the breadline, says the Swiss Trade Union Federation. The rising cost of consumer goods and energy must be countered by extra pay this year, says unions, and no-one should fall below the CHF4,500 threshold.
- Thomas Jordan, the chair of the Swiss National Bank, has issued another warning that interest rates will probably rise in Switzerland before the end of the year. Swiss inflation has been kept in check, by international comparison, to around 3%. But it’s more than likely that Switzerland will follow other central banks in raising rates again.
- A rare Swiss coin from 1741, one of only three such examples left surviving worldwide, has been auctioned in Geneva for CHF854,000. It is the most important Swiss coin ever minted, said the Numismatica Genevensis society, which specialises in rare coins. It was bought by an anonymous bidder.
- Food manufacturer Nestlé has again been fingered by environmental campaigners. Nestlé has been named, alongside Coca-Cola and Pepsico, as belonging to a group of the world’s worst plastic pollution offenders, according to Greenpeace.
- Some 25,000 people have signed a petition for the government to impose sanctions on Iran in answer to the ongoing brutality being waged by the regime on its population during a wave of protests. The NGO ‘Free Iran’ presented the petition to the government today.
Climate change - it’s all in the message
The COP27 climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh is in full swing with politicians striving to agree on ways to preserve the environment for future generations. But it’s not just politicians who need to roll up their sleeves – it seems that everyone needs to act to make a difference.
My colleague, Susan Misicka, spoke to Swiss adventurer and entrepreneur Bertrand PiccardExternal link about his ongoing quest to persuade business and society to adopt more climate-friendly ways. Piccard is famous for flying his carbon-neutral Solar Impulse aircraft around the world powered purely by the sun.
Companies and people are tired of being lectured to, he says. The message must change.
“You have to speak the language of the people that you wish to convince.”
“I tell them, even if you don’t care about climate, even if you don’t care about ecology, these solutions make more sense in terms of production, energy savings, new business opportunities, circular economy, waste management and things like that.”
“So you will make more profit. You will create more jobs. And by the way, you will also protect the environment.”
Russian sanctions and the Swiss connection
After some initial hesitancy, Switzerland has for some months followed a policy of implementing European Union sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.
This has resulted in billions of dollars being frozen in Swiss banks and oligarchs being prevented from selling or making commercial use of several properties in the Alps.
But a nagging thought remains in some people’s minds: are Russian money and business interests still able to make use of Swiss know-how to avoid sanctions?
Washington believes this is the case and has imposed sanctions against several Swiss individuals and companies it suspects of helping the Kremlin generate income and other support for its war machine.
The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has named 14 people and 28 entitiesExternal link – not all of them Swiss.
It also talks about a “global network of financial facilitators, enablers, and others” – a reference to lawyers, accountants and financiers who are adept at setting up a web of obfuscation to hide money trails.
US patience is obviously wearing thin. It has started naming names and imposing sanctions upon Swiss citizens. It remains to be seen how the Swiss authorities will react.
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