‘The Ferraris were a mistake’: Swiss mask entrepreneurs make millions during pandemic

Two 23-year-old Swiss entrepreneurs who became multi-millionaires by selling masks during the first wave of the pandemic have defended their actions while expressing regret for buying Ferraris with their earnings.

'The Ferraris were a mistake': Swiss mask entrepreneurs make millions during pandemic
Masks made at a factory in France. Photo: BERTRAND GUAY / AFP

Swiss entrepreneurs Jascha Rudolphi and Luca Steffen became millionaires during the first wave of the pandemic by selling coronavirus protective masks. 

According to Swiss media, each of the two made between 30 and 100 million francs (€27-92M, $33-111M) as a result. 

Rudolphi and Steffen, both 23, imported the masks from abroad and sold them for between CHF8.50 (€7.80, $9.50) and CHF9.90 (€9.10, $11.06) through their company Emix. 

Similar masks now cost less than one franc at most retailers. 

REMINDER: What are the fines for breaking shutdown rules in Switzerland?

The entrepreneurs have come under fire for selling “unusable, perhaps even fake masks to the federal government for horrific sums” reports Swiss news outlet NZZ

In one such example, Emix sold around 700,000 masks from Egyptian manufacturer Chemi Pharma Medical to the Swiss army which were later presumed to be fakes, as the Egyptian company does not manufacture masks. 

The two entrepreneurs are facing potential criminal consequences for their actions. A charge of usury has been opened up by the Zurich public prosecutor's office, while a criminal investigation into Emix is ongoing. 




The manufacturers however dispute this claim, pointing out a memo from the German Ministry for Health – another Emix customer – who wrote that “”Overall, Emix offered above-average quality with its deliveries and proved to be professional and fast in cooperation.”

The men came to Switzerland’s attention in June of 2020 when news emerged that they had each purchased limited edition Ferraris worth more than CHF2.5 million (€2.3M, $2.8M), along with a number of other cars. 

‘We have protected millions’

In an interview with Swiss media outlet NZZ published on Thursday, the entrepreneurs said they had no regret for their actions – although they did acknowledge that the purchase of the special edition cars was a mistake. 

“Thanks to us, millions of doctors, nurses, police officers and firefighters have been protected,” said Rudolphi.

“Regarding the accusation that we became rich with taxpayers' money, one must also say that we have now paid a lot of taxes in Switzerland.”

Steffen said it was just good business. 

“If you bear in mind that our profit came about through forward-looking negotiations in purchasing and logistics and through the huge volume, I don't have a guilty conscience for a second.”

Rudolphi said he understood why people were angry about the two purchasing Ferraris. 

“Buying the cars was insensitive at the time” he said. 


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Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I’m abroad?

Given how expensive health insurance premiums are in Switzerland, you may be tempted to suspend your policy while you are abroad. Is this possible?

Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I'm abroad?

Unlike the obligatory car insurance, which you can suspend temporarily by depositing your registration plates at the local motor vehicles office, rules pertaining to health insurance are much stricter.

As the Federal Office of Public Health explains it, “If you leave the country for a certain period to travel or study but do not take up residence abroad, you are still required to have [health] insurance in Switzerland”.

In other words, as long as you are a registered resident of Switzerland, regardless of your nationality or passport, you must keep your compulsory Swiss health insurance and pay your premiums. While you do this, you also remain covered against most medical emergencies while you travel.

However, rules are less stringent for supplemental health plans which can, in some cases, be put on hold, depending on the insurance provider, according to Switzerland’s Moneyland consumer website.

The only exception allowed for suspending the health insurance coverage is during a military or civil protection service which lasts more than 60 consecutive days.

“During these periods, the risks of illness and accident are covered by military insurance. Your health insurance provider will refund your premiums”, according to FOPH.

Under what circumstances can you cancel your Swiss health insurance?

Swiss law says you can cancel your insurance if you are moving abroad, either permanently for for a period exceeding three months.

If you do so, only claims for treatments given while you still lived in Switzerland will be paid by your insurance; any medical bills for treatment incurred after you officially leave will be denied.

These are the procedures for cancelling your compulsory health insurance if you leave the country under conditions mentioned above

To announce your departure abroad, you must send your insurance carrier a letter including your name, customer number or AVS/AHV number.

You must also include a certificate from your place of residence in Switzerland confirming that you have de-registered from your current address, as well as the date of your departure.

Note, however, that if your new destination is another Swiss community / canton, rather than a foreign country, your insurance can only be cancelled from the following calendar year and only if you present proof of having taken up a new policy with another company.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to register your address in Switzerland

You can find out more information about this process here

If you suspend your health insurance for less than six years, you can reactivate it at a later date with the same company when you return to Switzerland.

READ MORE : What you should know about your Swiss health insurance before you go abroad