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Swiss Federal Council Determines that There is No Legal Ground for Confiscation of Frozen Russian Assets under Swiss Law

The Swiss Federal Council has received legal clarifications on frozen Russian assets from a working group led by the Federal Office of Justice. On 15th February 2022, the Council reviewed the report’s findings, which concluded that confiscation of private Russian assets would undermine the Swiss Federal Constitution and existing legal order.

The Swiss Federal Council has ruled that the expropriation of private assets from lawful origin without due compensation is impermissible under Swiss law. The confiscation of frozen private assets, according to the Federation Constitution and Switzerland’s international obligations, must not be accepted.

Under the Swiss constitution and other legal acts, no public authority can arbitrarily take away someone’s possessions without due process or adequate compensation. In case there is a need to expropriate public assets, it should only be done following fair procedures established by law. Such procedures would include granting affected owners adequate time for them to oppose or challenge the proposed action within proper jurisdiction and, if necessary, to access the available judicial mechanisms for further remedies.

In addition to that, the Swiss government must provide fair compensation at a market value for those affected by their actions when seizing private assets through either executive order or law promulgated through authorized legislative bodies.

This clarification of its legislative base initiated by Swiss Federal Council falls within the scope of several recent news regarding frozen Russian assets’ treatment.

Earlier, we have notified you that the EU continues to work on its Freeze and Seize legislative initiative that would allow transferring EU-located Russian-owned frozen assets to the third parties of choice.

The existing US statutory legal approach (as determined in the US Asset Seizure for Ukraine Reconstruction Act) is quite simple: if a sanctioned individual or legal entity acts in contradiction with an existing sanction regime, the court may issue a confiscation order regarding its frozen assets for the benefit of any third parties.