Russian Gold Breaks Through Ban

Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine has turned his country into an international pariah and led to a global effort to boycott Russian gold, among its most important exports. But now there are cracks in the effort to impose economic sanctions on Russia’s gold industry. Switzerland imported more than three tons of gold from Russia in May, according to Swiss Federal Customs Administration records. Bloomberg News reports this is the first shipment of gold from Russia to Switzerland since February, when Russia troops began their assault on Ukraine.

The four largest precious metals processors in Switzerland, which together refine two-thirds of the world’s gold, claim they did not accept the Russian metal. But some refiner in Switzerland did, as the gold was registered by the Customs Administration for refining or other processing. 

In March, two Swiss refiners refused to remelt Russian gold. Other refiners said they would accept gold that had been refined in Russia prior to 2022. 

Most other global refiners are rejecting Russian precious metals. The London Bullion Metals Association in March suspended all six Russian gold and silver refineries from its approved list of refiners, effectively banning Russian-produced gold from being traded in London, the world’s most important bullion market. CME Group, operator of U.S. precious metals futures markets, also suspended Russian gold and silver from trading. 

But, the acceptance of Russian gold by a Swiss refiner indicates Moscow is finding a way around the sanctions that are designed to cripple Russia’s global gold business. 

Since April, Swiss refiners also have been importing palladium from Russia, which is one of the globe’s leading producer of the metal.