Russia seizes Audemars Piguet watches in apparent retaliation for Swiss sanctions

Date Added: March 27, 2022 04:15:09 PM
Author: Sutra Web Directory
Category: News & References

 Russian agents seized millions of dollars worth of Audemars Piguet watches in Moscow in an apparent retaliation for Swiss sanctions banning luxury goods exports, Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag reported.

The watches, which can cost more than £700,000 apiece, were seized from the firm’s local premises by special agents from Russia’s FSB on Tuesday, the newspaper said. It cited people familiar with a confidential Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs memo written for members of parliament that apparently gave details of the raid.

Switzerland, home to many of the world’s top watch brands, abandoned its traditional neutral stance and matched EU sanctions banning the export of luxury goods to Russia earlier this month in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

Russian authorities cited customs offences as the reason the Audemars Piguet watches were seized, yet Swiss foreign affairs department officials said the move was “most likely an arbitrary repressive measure in response to the sanctions”, the newspaper reported, citing the memo.

Officials from Audemars Piguet did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment. The Swiss watchmaker announced it would halt Russia exports and pause retail operations in Russia, closing two boutiques in Moscow at the end of February.

A spokesperson for Switzerland’s Department of Foreign Affairs said that the Swiss embassy in Moscow provides support to companies in Russia in coordination with other departments and that “in the course of the sanctions and Russian countermeasures, companies are faced with numerous uncertainties and regulatory measures”.

“The embassy is currently maintaining a very intensive exchange” with local Swiss companies in Russia, the spokesperson said in an email response to Bloomberg News. “Individual cases can therefore not be commented on, also to ensure the safety of the employees of these companies.”

For many of Europe’s top consumer-facing companies, a fullscale exit from Russia has proved challenging. Firms including Swiss packaged food giant Nestle SA have thousands of employees and sensitive production facilities that risk seizure and recrimination by Russia if they were to leave.

Family-owned and controlled for nearly 150 years, Audemars Piguet is one of the three biggest independent Swiss watch brands, along with Patek Philippe and Rolex.

Russia was the 17th-biggest export market for Swiss watches in 2021, accounting for 260m Swiss francs (£212m) of shipments, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.

~ Via The Guardian