Iran: Federal Council Takes Steps to Improve Legal Certainty and Prevent Possible Evasion

January 19, 2011

Bern, 19.01.2011 - On 19 January 2011 the Federal Council took the decision to adapt the sanctions against Iran in line with those of Switzerland's most important economic partners. The amendments to the relevant ordinance come into effect on 20 January 2011.

On 9 June 2010, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1929 imposing additional sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Switzerland implemented the resolution in the Federal Council Decree of 18 August 2010. The USA, the member states of the European Union and a series of other countries (Australia, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea) subsequently implemented further reaching measures. In particular, the measures taken by the European Union, which came into force at the end of October, meant that due to the differing legal situation, Switzerland could have been used to evade sanctions on trade in goods and services. Today's decision by the Federal Council prevents this and at the same time increases the level of legal certainty for Swiss firms operating internationally.

The Embargo Act provides the legal basis for these further reaching measures. It allows the Federal Council to order coercive measures for the implementation of sanctions imposed by the UN, the OSCE or Switzerland's most important economic partners.

The new measures include further reaching bans on the supply and procurement of dual use goods, as well as of further proliferation-sensitive goods, technologies and software. The existing ban on exports of heavy war materiel is extended to cover all armaments and goods which can be used for the purpose of internal repression. Furthermore, export restrictions have been imposed on certain goods which can be used in the Iranian oil and gas industry, as well as a ban on financing in this field. In the field of financial services there are new bans on the provision of insurance and re-insurance and due diligence obligations apply for certain banking relationships with Iran, as well as an obligation to report and obtain authorisation for money transfers over a certain sum. The list of individuals, businesses and organisations whose economic assets have been frozen has also been extended. Trade in goods and services not affected by the sanctions may continue as before.

In 2010 the volume of trade with Iran amounted to around CHF 741 million; Switzerland exported goods to the value of almost CHF 700 million and imported goods to the value of CHF 41 million. The volume of trade has therefore fallen by around CHF 63 million compared to 2009. The principal goods exported by Switzerland are pharmaceuticals, machinery and agricultural products.