Swiss set to step up scrutiny of commodities traders

·2 min read

ZURICH, June 30 (Reuters) - Switzerland is set to take a closer look at Swiss-based commodities traders to get more intelligence about a sector that has flourished in a country known for its light-touch approach to regulation.

The issue has come to the fore as the West tries to gauge Russia's commercial ties and impose sanctions that aim to hamstring Moscow's economy over its invasion of Ukraine.

The government on Wednesday instructed the economy ministry to look into a new data collection process that could shed light on the sector.

"The aim is to establish a solid foundation of reliable data on Swiss commodity trading that can be compared over time," it said in a statement.

"It is complex and labour-intensive to expand existing data-collection practices and to collect data regularly; new official data on commodity trading will therefore appear only in the mid- to long term."

The government noted that Switzerland is a major commodity trading hub, but official statistics do not record commodity trading as a separate activity.

Around 900 Swiss-based commodity traders employ more than 10,000 people, but the state can make only rough estimates of the sector's contribution to the economy, and no specific information is available on the goods they trade.

Neutral Switzerland has adopted nearly all European Union sanctions against Russians over the Ukraine war, which Moscow describes as a special military operation to disarm its neighbour and root out fascists. The West describes it as an unprovoked attack.

The Swiss government said in May that trading houses can decide for themselves whether commodity deals with state-controlled Russian companies meet the "strictly necessary" standard in order to avoid international sanctions.

On Wednesday it adopted EU steps including an embargo on crude oil and some refined petroleum products from Russia, prohibiting the purchase, import, transit and transport to or within Switzerland.

The embargo provides for a ban on providing services, including insurance, for the transport of oil and certain Russian petroleum products to any destination. That could make financing Russian deals from Switzerland harder. (Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)