RBC: Swiss banks warn Russian taxpayers of looming account closures

Swiss banks UBS and Credit Suisse have tightened their grip on Russian clients — those who pay taxes in Russia have received warnings of impending account closures, Russian media outlet RBC writes, citing sources.

The banks in question are UBS and Credit Suisse.

“Our law firm has been contacted by about ten people who have so far received unofficial phone calls from bank employees warning them that if they do not stop owning companies and paying taxes in Russia, the bank will have to close their accounts,” Roman Kudinov, managing partner of the Swiss-based law firm LEOLEX, told RBC.

Kudinov says the move is selective rather than en masse and has so far been unofficial.

Another lawyer from Switzerland told RBC that banks have already started blocking the accounts of Russians who pay taxes to the Russian budget.

Kudinov believes the banks are forced to take such steps because of pressure from Swiss authorities, parliamentary parties, and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

In February, Credit Suisse froze $19 bln worth of Russian assets — over a third of all Russian assets in the country, according to the Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung.

However, in March, the US ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Scott Miller, urged for an additional $55 billion to $110 billion worth of Russian assets to be frozen. The SECO called this demand a violation of property rights.

In early April, the G7 urged Switzerland to be more active in freezing the assets of Russian oligarchs.

In late March, a Swiss court delivered suspended sentences for four employees of the local Gazprombank branch who were found guilty of not conducting due diligence when handling the accounts of cellist Sergey Roldugin, “Putin’s childhood friend”. The charges were brought against the bankers, three of whom are Russian and one of whom is Swiss, at the end of February.

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