Toggle navigation menu.

Russia’s Alpine Assets: Money Laundering and Sanctions Evasion in Switzerland

Dirksen Senate Office Building Room G50 Washington, DC 20002 United States

Members

Representative Joe Wilson

Chairman

Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe

Senator Ben Cardin

Co-Chairman

Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe

Senator Roger F. Wicker

Ranking Member

Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe

Representative Victoria Spartz

Commissioner

Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe

Witnesses

Bill Browder

Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign

Drew Sullivan

Co-founder

Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP)

Olena Tregub

Secretary General

Independent Defense Anti-Corruption Committee (NAKO)

Switzerland has for years been a primary destination for Russian money laundering and, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a weak link in Western sanctions enforcement. This Helsinki Commission hearing examined Switzerland’s poor track record of rooting out dirty Russian money and examined potential paths forward for U.S. policymakers in persuading Switzerland to uphold its commitments to its democratic partners.

Bill Browder, head of the Magnitsky Global Justice Campaign, outlined his own experiences with Swiss officials undermining investigations into the money laundering cases linked to Sergei Magnitsky’s discovery of over $230 million in tax fraud by Russian officials. Browder traced Swiss officials’ attempts to direct corruption by Russian money, stating that Switzerland “wants to be seen as doing something while in reality doing nothing” to continue profiting off of Russian assets. Since the Swiss legal and regulatory systems have both failed to show a commitment to effective oversight of Russian money, Browder asked commissioners and other government officials to consider targeted sanctions under the Magnitsky Act against Swiss officials involved in quashing the investigations in question, including the sitting Prosecutor General.

Drew Sullivan, co-founder and publisher of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), testified that Swiss financial regulators prioritize the interests of the Swiss banking sector over true oversight and legal compliance, emphasizing that a fair audit of Swiss banks would show what his organization estimates is over $400 billion in illegal money, much of which is linked to Russia. Mr. Sullivan urged U.S. and EU policymakers to exercise their regulatory jurisdiction over dollar- and euro-denominated accounts to force Swiss banks into compliance with stronger transparency regulations. He views severe pressure from other democratic governments as the only way to ensure more responsible Swiss financial regulation.

Olena Tregub, secretary general of the Ukrainian civil society organization the Independent Defense Anti-Corruption Committee (NAKO), underlined Switzerland’s hypocritical narrative of neutrality given that Switzerland is the leading European country in terms of dual-use weapons components found in Russian arms. Additionally, Switzerland’s lax sanctions enforcement has allowed the country to become a safe haven for Russian money despite Switzerland nominally joining EU sanctions regimes against Russia. Tregub advocated for a U.S.-led multilateral working group, including Switzerland, to prevent the export of dual-use technologies to Russia as well as additional pressure on Switzerland to enforce European sanctions it has already agreed to.

Commissioners thanked witnesses for bringing visibility to Switzerland’s need for improvement in these areas and questioned them on what the most effective U.S. responses would be, as well as how likely they think their proposed solutions are to be implemented.

Category
Country
Issue
Date
Filter Topics Open Close
Press Releases

Hearing: Supporting a Democratic and Secure Moldova

Jul 06, 2023

Wednesday, July 12, 2023 2:00 pm Cannon House Office Building, Room 210 Live stream: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jm-R6rfQbCo In recent years, Moldova has enacted numerous reforms under current Moldovan President Maia Sandu to strengthen its democratic institutions, combat corruption and kleptocracy, and integrate with the European Union. In 2022, the European Union granted Moldova “Candidate” status in its […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Chairman Wilson and RM Cohen Mark Third Annual Count...

Jun 16, 2023

WASHINGTON—Today, Helsinki Commission Chairman Joe Wilson and Ranking Member Steve Cohen, Co-Chairmen of the Counter-Kleptocracy Caucus, marked the third annual Counter-Kleptocracy Month. “Foreign corruption and kleptocracy is the main reason that we face a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine today. It is the way that the Islamic Republic of Iran sustains itself. It is the […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Helsinki Commissioners Announce Re-introduction of C...

Jan 25, 2023

On Tuesday, Helsinki Commissioners Rep. Steve Cohen, Rep. Joe Wilson, and Senator Ben Cardin re-introduced the Combatting Global Corruption Act in both the House and Senate, along with Rep. Bill Keating, Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar and Senator Todd Young. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation formally designates combatting global corruption as a key U.S. national security concern. It would require […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Announces Briefing on US-Europe ...

Dec 12, 2022

WASHINGTON—At a virtual kickoff event on December 13, Co-Chairman Cohen and Ranking Member Wilson launched the US-Europe Coalition on Russia Sanctions. NO SAFE HAVEN Launching the US-Europe Coalition on Russia Sanctions Tuesday, December 13, 2022 8:30 a.m. EST Since February 24, 2022, Western countries have imposed sanctions against Russian officials, businessmen, and public figures who […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Co-Chairman Cohen Calls for the Release of Political...

Aug 09, 2022

Washington – On the second anniversary of the sham presidential election in Belarus, the Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman and OSCE PA Special Representative on Political Prisoners Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) issued the following statement: “Two years ago today, Belarus’s autocrat Aleksander Lukashenko put up a show of an election that he had hoped would legitimize his […]

screen-reader-text
Publications

Helsinki Commission Digital Digest July 2022

Jul 29, 2022

screen-reader-text
Publications

HELSINKI COMMISSION DIGITAL DIGEST JUNE 2022

Jun 30, 2022

screen-reader-text
Hearings

European Energy Security Post-Russia

Jun 07, 2022

Russia is weaponizing energy to prolong its unlawful invasion of Ukraine. Unfortunately, the sanctions that Europe and the United States have put in place have not been enough to curb Russian aggression thus far and the European Union pays Russia almost a billion euros a day for energy resources—mostly gas— that fund the Russian war […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

European Energy Security Focus of Upcoming Helsinki ...

Jun 02, 2022

WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following hearing: EUROPEAN ENERGY SECURITY POST-RUSSIA Tuesday, June 7, 2022 2:30 p.m. Watch live: www.youtube.com/HelsinkiCommission The United States and European allies have largely cut Russia out of the global economy following its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. However, given […]

screen-reader-text
Publications

Helsinki Commission Digital Digest May 2022

Jun 01, 2022

screen-reader-text
Briefings

Putin’s Bribetakers and Warmongers

May 19, 2022

The Helsinki Commission was briefed on 6,000 bribetakers and warmongers identified by Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation.

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Helsinki Commissioners Lead Bipartisan Ask for Biden...

May 12, 2022

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (MD), author of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and Chair of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission), along with Helsinki Commission Ranking Member Senator Roger Wicker (MS) and Commissioners Senators Jeanne Shaheen (NH) and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) are urging President Joe Biden to publicly sanction […]

screen-reader-text