Last week 45 members of the European Parliament wrote to the leaders of the EU asking for a centralised registry to be created detailing where the CBR funds are held, as well as €19bn worth of frozen oligarchs' money and other sanctioned Russia citizens and companies. Delfi reports that the EU has still not been able to identify where the majority of the CBR funds are held. Moreover, they admitted the $300bn number was based on the CBR’s own reporting of the amount held in Europe and not on reports from the institutions that were supposed to hold the reserves; consequently the amount held in Europe may be a lot lower than the reported figure of $300bn.

The problems with finding these funds is a function of the complexity of how Russia manages its foreign reserves, and has proved to be more difficult to untangle than was expected.


What makes the way Russia handles its foreign reserve complex? Europe admitted that they can't find most of the foreign reserve it holds, because of the complex manner in which it manages its foreign currency, but what makes it exactly complex? It mentions that the oligarch money is also hard to seize, because it's held by many individuals, so is it just because Russia uses several organizations to manage its foreign reserve or something else?

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    Well, they're probably well-spread. A 2022 report said that 13.8% were held in China, and that was the largest identifiable chunk in one country. (This is almost an answer, but let me see if I find more on this.) OTOH back then identifying where some [other] 25% was didn't seem too hard "around 25 percent of Russia’s reserve assets were held in France, Germany and Austria". Sep 2, 2023 at 13:06
  • FWTW, it's been widely reported that oligarchs used plenty of shell companies, but I've not seen any report suggesting that the CBR itself has done so. So, in the absence of that layer of obfuscation, I'm not sure how the bne report/claim is justified. Also, I've not really seen it reproduced somewhere else; I mean in some more mainstream publication, so who knows how correct it it... Sep 2, 2023 at 14:07
  • For example, Euroclear says that most [Russian] assets it froze belonged to the CBR (rather than other sanctioned Russian entities) cepr.org/voxeu/columns/search-russias-foreign-assets Sep 2, 2023 at 14:13
  • Annoyingly however, Euroclear only reports how much money they've made in interest on the frozen Russian assets (340 million)... which makes it much of a guesswork what the frozen amount is/was. Sep 2, 2023 at 14:27
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    All sources making this claim cite [this] (rus.delfi.lv/51164905/istorija-dnja/55266930/…) article which in- turn cites anonymous sources. Unclear whether claim should be trusted without further evidence Sep 3, 2023 at 23:15

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Who knows what that was talking about (in Feb). According to a newer piece from July in the same venue...

Euroclear depository earned €1.74bn in interest income from frozen Russian assets in 1H23, more than double compared with the €821mn reported in 2022, RBC business portal reported citing the financial group’s report. [...]

About €197bn in Russian assets are frozen at the depository, according to the Belgian government, of which €180bn are Central Bank of Russia (CBR) assets.

As you can see, they claim to have frozen €180bn of CBR assets in Europe and making interest (around 1%) on that.

It is true that an Oct 2022 report from Euroclear only talked about some 340 million in interest (YTD Sep 2022)... which at roughly the same presumed interest rate would indeed have been only around 30-something billion of frozen assets back then. (That older report don't give the exact figure for the frozen assets, only the interest gained on it.) But it looks like whatever troubles they might have had then freezing CBR assets didn't last into this year given the more recent piece quoted above. IDK what those troubles [finding the CBR assets] were; somebody else might want to answer that (hence my bounty).

According to pre-war statistics Europe (mostly France and Germany) were the place where about 1/3 of the Russian ($630 billion) reserves were stored. So, €180bn if all frozen is pretty much all that CBR had in Europe. According to the same pre-war stats, another third were being held domestically (as gold) or in China. So that third would be clearly outside the sanctions' reach. I'm not too sure where the third third is/was. N.B.: it continues to be widely reported that the CBR had about half of its resaves frozen abroad. AFAICT, this figure/proportion seems to come from the Russian finance ministry (more precisely they said $300 of $640 billion were frozen), and was put out in March 2022. Also from pre-war stats, an additional 16% were in Japan or the US, so if those were successfully frozen too (likely) then it would more or less match what the Russians themselves said.

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