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.