Home » No Swiss sanctions – Despite explosions: The Nord Stream companies in Zug live on – News

No Swiss sanctions – Despite explosions: The Nord Stream companies in Zug live on – News

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No Swiss sanctions – Despite explosions: The Nord Stream companies in Zug live on – News

The companies Nord Stream and Nord Stream 2 are economically dead. Their gas pipelines lie largely in ruins at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. No gas is flowing, the raw material rubles have not been rolling in for almost 1.5 years.

Actually, the companies should have deposited their balance sheets long ago. And yet there is activity at both headquarters in Zug and Steinhausen/ZG. How can that be?

SRF asks questions and is largely met with a wall of silence. What happens behind the company’s facades is unclear.

Sweden and Denmark have closed investigations

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It was September 26, 2022, when four explosions tore holes in the Nord Stream pipelines up to 80 meters deep in the Baltic Sea.

To date there are no official investigation results. On February 7 and February 26, 2024, the public prosecutors of Sweden and Denmark closed the investigation. Only Germany continues to investigate.

International journalists have published numerous theories and more or less credible reconstructions.

There is suspicion against Ukrainian and Russian authors. The USA is also being traded. There is only one thing everyone agrees on: they were professional perpetrators, probably supported by the state.

At least some information can be found out about Nord Stream 2. The company was founded in Zug in 2015 under the name “New European Pipeline”. That was 10 years after the first Nord Stream company started operations, then as the “NEGP Company”.

The pipelines, which were supposed to bring Russian gas directly across the seabed to Germany, were pushed forward by the then German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder together with the Russian President. Chancellor Angela Merkel continued the strategy, even though Nord Stream was internationally controversial from the start.

Nord Stream 2 never went into operation; the incumbent Chancellor Olaf Scholz stopped the licensing two days before the start of the war, on February 22, 2022. Shortly afterwards, the USA sanctioned the company, largely paralyzing it before it could become operational.

Nevertheless: it continues to exist. On January 10, 2024, the debt moratorium was extended for the third time. The company even moved its headquarters after the sabotage, from offices in Zug to its own building in neighboring Steinhausen.

The Nord Stream companies in Zug

1 / 2

Legend: Nord Stream 2 in Steinhausen ZG, founded in 2015: Sanctioned by the USA, in moratorium, still around 20 employees. SRF

2 / 2

Legend: Nord Stream in Zug, founded in 2005: Not sanctioned, number of employees and activities not known. SRF

According to Philipp Possa, this was planned from the start. He has been appointed as an administrator. He declined an interview, but provided information via email. Around 20 people still worked at Nord Stream 2. More than 100 employees have been laid off following US sanctions. Philipp Possa writes: “The company maintains the necessary personnel to secure the pipeline and possible health, safety and environmental risks.”

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Switzerland cannot impose sanctions independently

Switzerland has not accepted the sanctions. The company is not restricted in its business activities in this country. Simon Plüss, who is responsible for sanctions at the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs Seco, says: “If you wanted to adopt US sanctions, the Federal Council would have to decide.”

Switzerland cannot impose its own sanctions. The law only provides for the adoption of sanctions. Switzerland only accepts UN sanctions because they are legitimate under international law and Switzerland itself is a UN member. The adoption of the EU sanctions is a politically desired exception. Switzerland has never adopted US sanctions.

Switzerland doesn’t want to ruin everything with the Russians.

According to emeritus criminal law professor Mark Pieth, Switzerland has always shown restraint when it comes to adopting sanctions. He says: “A certain half-heartedness also comes from the fact that you want to play along with the EU and don’t want to appear as a spoilsport or profiteer. And on the other hand, you might not want to ruin everything with the Russians.”

However, this is a wasted effort: “It There are no points to be won with the Russians. We’re just an unfriendly country from their perspective.”

G7 task force: Switzerland sees “no need”

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In April 2023, Switzerland refused the most important industrialized countries (G7) to participate in the international task force for tracking down Russian oligarchs’ money REPO (“Russian Elites, Proxies and Oligarchs Task Force”).

A statement from the Federal Department of Economics, Education and Research (WBS) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) dated April 18, 2023 states:

«Collaboration on a technical level is currently working smoothly. For this reason, Switzerland currently sees no need to formally join the REPO TF. If membership is in Switzerland’s interest in the future, the Federal Council could reassess the situation.”

In March, diplomatic representatives from France, Italy, Germany, the USA, Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom called on Switzerland to be more involved in the search for oligarch funds. They accused the federal government of not blocking enough funds.

However, there is great political pressure on Switzerland to join internationally coordinated political measures.

Sources: Keystone, Seco

The other thing remains, the first Nord Stream company. It is not subject to any sanctions. Like Nord Stream 2, it is majority owned by the Russian energy company Gazprom. However, a number of European energy companies are still involved in Nord Stream.

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It is not possible to find out how many employees still work at Nord Stream. In the summer of 2022 there were 75. At that time, the SRF company had still opened the doors, had the control room and a meeting filmed. That was before the attacks.

A visit to the site shows that there is still activity and staff are coming and going. SRF speaks to several people leaving the building. They don’t want to give any information and say they don’t work here.

Website: “Secure Energy for Europe”

The last message on the website is from November 2022. On the website, the company still describes the pipelines as “secure energy for Europe”. If you dial the number for the media office, an answering machine tells you in English: “We are currently receiving a lot of calls and emails. We’ll try to answer them as quickly as possible.” Even after three months, SRF has received no response.

A quick telephone contact with a Russian member of management yields answers such as “We always have something to do” or “Nothing has changed for us”. The person can no longer be reached to answer questions.

Board of Directors does not answer questions

To this day, the company’s only board member is the Zug lawyer Urs Hausheer. He promises a meeting. When SRF wants to accept, he cancels it. The reason: There is nothing to report. He is not available to answer questions.

He finally announced via email: “The board of directors and management are currently working intensively on the future direction/structure of the company.” And: “We will continue to communicate externally as soon as we believe this is feasible.”

Even a visit to his office in Zug does not lead to a meeting. Urs Hausheer is not present. He takes note of this visit. Even afterwards, he did not answer how many people still work at Nord Stream and what they do.

But what can be seen on site: The mailbox of his law firm houses 32 other company names.

Putin is waging war with money from Zug.

The former Green National Councilor and former Zug Cantonal Councilor Josef Lang helped organize a vigil in front of the Nord Stream building on the evening before the second anniversary of the start of the war. He says: “Nord Stream contributed to Putin being able to start the war with a full war chest. Putin is waging war with money that comes from Zug.”

Legend: Vigil in front of the Nord Stream building in Zug on February 23, 2024. According to co-organizer Josef Lang, this was the 43rd action in front of the headquarters. SRF

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Nord Stream board member Urs Hausheer writes: “Our company has made a valuable contribution to the energy supply in Western Europe for more than 10 years. She has never taken part in political debates and will not do so in the future.

Authorities refuse to release documents

SRF asks the Economic Directorate in Zug to what extent there has been contact between the government councilors and the Nord Stream companies since the explosions. The Economics Directorate writes that all government councilors responded to the question “that they had no email contacts between September 26, 2022 and today and that there are no protocols relating to the two companies mentioned.”

However, Zug has a team for economic management. Its task is to “maintain or create good framework conditions” for companies based in the canton of Zug. There is a separate economic management law for this purpose.

The team was last at Nord Stream in August 2017 and at Nord Stream 2 in June 2022. SRF would like to see possible minutes of these meetings and is submitting a request for this based on the Public Information Act. The management refuses to provide insight on the grounds: “No company would want to have contact with the authorities anymore, which would mean that the successfully practiced economic management would become obsolete.”

Finance director refers to the federal government

Economics Director Silvia Thalmann-Gut is not willing to do an interview. On the other hand, Finance Director Heinz Tännler receives SRF. He says that for him, from a formalistic point of view, it makes “no difference at all” that the companies whose pipelines in the Baltic Sea were blown up by unknown perpetrators are based in Zug. He refers to economic freedom: “You had the right to domicile here at the time. They certainly did that according to the law and justice.”

Legend: Zug government councilor Heinz Tännler (SVP) says he knows no details from the Nord Stream companies. SRF

He cannot say how many of the approximately 400 Russian companies domiciled in Zug have been sanctioned: “It is not our duty.” He must comply with the reporting requests sent to him by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs. “We’ll do that one-on-one, and the federal government has to decide the rest.”

Parliament deals with task force

In mid-April, Parliament wants to decide in a special session whether Switzerland should take part in a joint task force with Western industrialized nations on Russia sanctions.

Meanwhile, the Nord Stream companies are still active despite destroyed pipelines, partial US sanctions and criticism.

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