The Switzerland connection emerges in the Russian gold investigation.

Since the beginning of Russia’s war on Ukraine last year, 75 tonnes of gold of Russian origin have ended up in Swiss gold refineries and foundries. The gold was probably also processed in Switzerland via London in recent years. The Swiss gold industry has played a role in helping fund Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine. However, in Switzerland, there is a ban on “buying, importing or transporting” gold from Russia, which was decided by the Swiss government in August 2022. The fact that this gold was probably also processed in Switzerland is problematic and ethically questionable.

Gold Industry’s Ties to Putin’s Ukraine Moves

Swiss public television, SRF, in partnership with Die Wochenzeitung WOZ, conducted an extensive investigation into the Swiss gold industry’s potential links to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggressive actions in Ukraine. Their findings unveiled a disconcerting revelation: Swiss gold refineries have actively processed substantial quantities of Russian-origin gold, routing it through London in recent years.

Surge in Russian Gold Imports to Switzerland. Since 2021, Swiss refineries have processed an astounding 110 tonnes of gold, valued at over CHF 6 billion ($6.6 billion). Remarkably, since the outbreak of the Ukraine conflict in March 2022, Switzerland has processed an impressive 75 tonnes of Russian gold, corroborated by data from the Federal Office for Customs and Border Security.

An investigative report reveals Swiss gold refineries processed substantial Russian-origin gold, raising questions about links to Putin’s Ukraine actions. Since 2021, 110 tonnes of gold, valued over CHF 6 billion, passed through Swiss refineries. Switzerland processed 75 tonnes since the Ukraine conflict started in March 2022. The Swiss government promptly banned Russian gold imports in August 2022, in line with EU and US sanctions.

Swift Response: Ban on Russian Gold Imports

In response to this influx of Russian gold, the Swiss government, aligning with the European Union and the United States, swiftly enacted a ban in August 2022 on the importation of Russian gold and gold products, encompassing “buying, importing, or transporting” such assets. Notably, the ban excludes gold processed within Swiss borders before its implementation.

Complex Gold Route via the UK.

Russian gold takes a convoluted route to reach Switzerland, utilizing the UK as a key transit point. It’s worth noting that Russia’s export of gold to the UK remained negligible until 2018, after which export volumes surged dramatically. Between 2019 and the onset of last year’s conflict, Russia channeled over 700 tonnes of gold to London, amassing a substantial total exceeding CHF 34 billion, as confirmed by British foreign trade data.

Drivers of Gold Exports and Ethical Concerns. Bernhard Schnellmann, a Swiss precious metals expert, attributes the surge in exports to Russia’s central bank’s decision to halt gold purchases in mid-2019 and the subsequent removal of value-added tax (VAT) on gold, which catalyzed a remarkable surge in gold exports. On the other hand, Mark Pieth, a former criminal law professor and gold trading expert, suggests a possible connection between these massive gold sales and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, raising ethical concerns about the use of gold proceeds for war preparations.

Ethical Debate Surrounding Gold Refining in Switzerland.

Marc Ummel, head of commodities at Swissaid, shares these ethical concerns, emphasizing how the refinement process transforms “ethically questionable Russian gold” into gold with a Swiss seal of approval, masking its traceability and raising further ethical dilemmas. However, Swiss gold refineries strongly refute allegations of a direct connection between processing Russian-origin gold and Russia’s military actions in Ukraine. Christoph Wild, head of the Swiss Association of Manufacturers and Traders in Precious Metals, firmly maintains that this gold remains unsanctioned and carries no ethical implications, given its pre-conflict origins, thus dismissing concerns about the ethicality of refining such gold.

Swiss Response: Ban on Russian Gold Imports.

Switzerland responded promptly by imposing a sweeping ban in August 2022, restricting “buying, importing, or transporting” gold from Russia. Swiss customs administration staunchly asserts that recent imports of Russian-origin gold into Switzerland adhere to legal norms. They argue that this gold, originating from Russia but exported to the UK in February 2022 before the onset of conflict and sanctions, does not directly contribute to funding the war.






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