Prosecutors crack down on retailers selling Rolex watches for cash


Police and tax investigators in the Netherlands are telling retailers to be on their guard for criminals that want to buy highly tradeable watches from the likes of Rolex, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet as a way of laundering money or moving liquid assets around the world.

Netherland’s FIOD department is urging authorised dealers for these brands, and traders of pre-owned luxury watches, to report cash transactions.

They are already legally required to report cash payments in excess of €10,000 as an unusual transaction.

“The watches are very popular in criminal circles, FIOD director Thomas Bosch said in an interview with NOS Radio 1 Journaal.

“They are seen as a status symbol, retain their value, are small and therefore easy to carry and also serve as a means of payment for criminal services. By purchasing them with criminally acquired money, it is laundered,” he adds.

Failing to report these excessive cash payments could lead to the retailer being prosecuted and the Justice Department of the Netherlands already has a case under investigation where a jeweller is accused of money laundering.

The FIOD would not comment on the specifics of that case, but points out that expensive watches are increasingly appearing in investigative cases, which reinforces the suspicion in the judiciary that jewellers regularly “look the other way”.

“If a transaction raises too many questions, and the customer does not provide the correct answers, then a jeweler should simply refuse that customer,” urges Mr Bosch.


  1. Sadly, this is a feature of our time. High end watches are in fact “currency” in tough times. Near where I live in California, a gentleman jeweler was recently robbed at gunpoint of his Richard Mille watch ($500,000 +/-). Using adequate precautions ahead of time is is key to crime avoidance. Most watch collectors I know wear classic pieces with leather straps that do not ordinarily draw attention to themselves. This is going to be a growing problem as crime and serious economic times hit even harder. The solution: Insure your watches if at all possible. Wear them discreetly and in a manner that will not draw attention. The jeweler’s inadequate thinking could have cost him his life instead of his Richard Mille. With serial numbers recorded, the thief won’t be able to get the watch serviced at all, as it must be returned to the factory or AD. The tools required to service that piece are proprietary. Good thinking RM! Please use your head and don’t count on the “authorities” to help you.


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