Switzerland makes it possible
Oligarch evades sanctions with tricks
Not all oligarchs have to divest their companies and shares to protect companies from sanctions. This could be the case of the Russian billionaire Andrei Melnichenko (50) and his wife Alexandra (45).
Andrei Melnichenko is the founder of…
Is Switzerland turning a blind eye to an oligarch? Many of the super-rich Russians are now on the EU sanctions list and are also being sanctioned by Switzerland. So that the companies they control do not suffer too much damage, some have sold their shares or entire companies. As in the case of Roman Abramovich (55), who had to sell his football club Chelsea.
Others seem to get away with it more lightly, as the “Tagesanzeiger” suspects. It could even be that Russian billionaire Andrei Melnitschenko (50) and his wife Alexandra (45) can circumvent sanctions with the help of Switzerland.
The Russian lives in St. Moritz GR and is the founder of Zug-based Eurochem. The company is one of the largest fertilizer manufacturers in the world. Like many other oligarchs, Melnichenko followed Vladimir Putin’s (70) request to meet the Russian head of state in Moscow shortly after the outbreak of the war. Purpose of the event: support for Putin’s war.
wife takes charge
Many of the participants immediately ended up on the various EU and Swiss sanctions lists. Although Melnichenko relinquished control of the company, he handed it over to his wife Alexandra. When the stunt came to light, there was global outrage, and the wife also ended up on sanctions lists. But unlike her husband, she did not have to part with the shares, apparently even controlling a well-known block of shares in Eurochem directly through a shell company in Cyprus. According to the “Tagesanzeiger”, Switzerland officially approved the maneuver. On the basis that Eurochem does not fall under the sanctions.
Certain EU countries and also some European banks are much stricter. Switzerland “is neither legally nor politically obliged to join the EU sanctions or their implementation by individual member states”, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) is quoted in the “Tagesanzeiger”.
fencing in place of sale
The newspaper suspects that the reason the oligarch’s wife did not have to part with her shares in Eurochem was the so-called “ring fence”. The point here is that a sanctioned person does not receive funds, such as dividend payments, from the company. The advantage of this “fence”: although money does not flow, at the same time the complete sale of the shares is not necessary to protect the company.
This puts the Melnichenkos in a better position than other oligarchs who have had to divest themselves of their companies, or even football clubs, altogether. Although it is not clear if Switzerland has had a hand in such a trick, the very suspicion provokes outrage in the federal government in Bern: “If the dividends are not paid, it means that the company and therefore its participation in the trust it becomes more valuable. The beneficiary of the trust still benefits because the distribution of the profits is only postponed”, fears the president of the FDP, Thierry Burkart (47), in the “Tagesanzeiger”. (ko)