In this top of criminal news we look more closely at two cases in Monaco: one involving a criminal watchmaker and the other a cheque with no backing, in exchange for jewels and watches.
Did the watchmaker sell stolen watches?
Did the watchmaker from the Boulevard des Moulins enable the “laundering” of stolen luxury brand watches? Confidentiality and anonymity were guaranteed: no registration on the police books and transactions in cash! A parallel and successful market seems to have been run alongside the normal business! As mentioned at the hearing, with all watches combined, an average of three hundred and fifty units were sold annually for a turnover of 4,700,000 euros! In fact, the court considered this case following a complaint filed by a victim for the thefts of his Jaeger-Le Coultre and a Patek Philippe, after having recognised them in the window of the shop. At the end of two years of investigation, the manager, suspected of concealment, appeared before the Criminal Court. The public prosecutor claimed a sentence of 12 months suspended imprisonment, a 100,000 euros fine and confiscation of the watches.
In this complex case, the judges took their time to set the record straight. During the search, of the one hundred and twenty-eight watches recorded, twenty-eight were not mentioned in the police book. Nothing to hide if one believes the accused: they were there as deposits! This was followed by a story of a case packed with valuable watches that suddenly disappeared: transported by his wife; she was found at her father’s home. The computer was missing: it reappeared at a friend’s house, between two blankets in the children’s room.
In addition to the discovery of other watches, investigators were interested in vehicles. Quite a collection: a 2M € Bugatti, a Rolls Royce Prestige, a Black Porsche and a Bentley! “When you declare a monthly income of 10,000 euros,” Judge Florestan Bellinzona asked, “how did you get these beautiful cars?” Obviously, the magistrate confused his personal and professional wealth,” assured the accused.“The first two were entrusted to me by an acquaintance to find him a buyer in Monaco. The other two belong to me.”
Next, there was the correspondence where several letters were sent to obtain, on a “second market”, blank certificates of guarantee, often at around 1,000 euros each, and boxes. Why? “The watches can be sold more expensively with these documents and packaging,” answered the man of German origin. Further details lead the judge to consider fraud.
“Serial numbers have been erased and then overwritten. And your appointed repairer is your brother who has his workshop in Kiev. Why not choose a local repairman?” The response? The simple reasons of price, delays and unskilled work… The magistrate doubted this answer and was interested in two undeclared watches. “I knew,” acknowledges the manager, “that it was not very clear and that I risked having problems. But I did not want to lose the 8,500 euros paid for the Patek Philippe.” As for the watches that appear in the police book, “several have been stolen,” noted the judge.
This raises questions about their origins … Silence or incomprehension! As in this certainly coded message: “The chocolate has not been taken out of the fridge? I hope the 250 kg will arrive without melting.” What does it mean?
Today, the prisoner, whose court file has been clean until now, has been banned from watchmaking and is forbidden to leave the Principality. Without work, he is being helped by his family. This does not move the civil party. For Deborah Lorenzi Martarello, “it was impossible that Monsieur did not know the fraudulent origin of the watches. He did not have much shame regarding those that were deposited. Most of his vendors have long criminal records. My client requests 30,000 euros in total!” After a reminder of the process for selling stolen watches, 23 of which had unknown origins, the Senior Counsel Olivier Zamphiroff required a punishment which could serve as an example. Consequently, the defence, assured by Thierry Fradet of the Bar of Toulon, believed that his client “did not commit any fault. He did not know that the watches were stolen and for the most part he did not even handle them. It was his father. It’s a puzzle! We must give him the benefit of the doubt.” The court put the matter under advisement and will render its decision on Tuesday April 25th.
A bad cheque
This scam is not new.
A transalpine merchant, baited by the bonuses of an Italian crook, handed over 636,400 euros of watches and jewellery against a check… that was no good! However, the manager of the SARL at the Carré d’Or of the Principality and who was a specialist in jewellery, would have taken all possible guarantees so as not to fall into a trap. As the defendant did not appear at the hearing, the prosecution requested one year in prison with an arrest warrant.
The case began following a complaint lodged by the head of the company in April 2015. In his statement to the inspectors, he mentioned being approached, starting in January, by a dealer specialising in luxury jewellery. His mission was to seek high-quality diamond and watch investments for rich clients in the Gulf countries. Among other references to certify the payment, the shrewd dealer would have presented some extracts from bank statements at the SMC bank. His sales pitch and promises were staggering… talks, complacency and flattery ultimately seduced the head of the SARL. Trust established, he multiplied the purchases of Rolex watches and precious gems. The transaction was completed on 5 March, 2015.
The following day, the manager tried to cash the valuable cheque with the bank. The cashier informed him: no money had ever gone into this account since it was opened. The victim understood at his own expense that he had been tricked! “For his part,” reminded Judge Jérôme Fougeras Lavergnolle, “the defendant filed a complaint in San Remo. The day he handed over the precious jewels to someone called Hamed, he was assaulted and robbed. According to the Italian procedure, the swindler never had any telephone contact with the famous intermediary and he never told the truth on this subject. This man was already convicted in the Peninsula in 2006 and 2007 for his involvement in the fraudulent sale of watches and jewellery. Then again in Monaco in 2016.”
Bringing together the pieces of the puzzle, prosecutor Alexia Brianti laid out a carefully thought-out ploy spread over several years and reinforced the suspicions of the judge.
“When this suspect filed a complaint, the Italian carabinieri felt that his statements were not credible. He would have met Hamed in Milan to give him the jewels. The geolocation of his phone shows that this is false. Some of the diamonds were found in India. How? This scammer seized 400,000 euros of watches and jewellery in Verona by the same process. Today he has disappeared and he is not there to explain himself.”
At the time of the deliberations, the court preferred to postpone its decision to a future hearing. On one hand, he invited the public prosecutor’s office to approach the Italian authorities in order to ascertain the outcome of the proceedings against the accused. On the other hand, this would enable them to call back the complainant, as the absence could have been caused by the liquidation of his company and his change of address.
In the end, these criminal news highlighting the two cases of the watchmaker and the cheque shows how some clever scammers can exploit the sale of luxury goods in Monaco.