Wild west-methods in the watch world
The watch forger-affair around manufacturer Jean-Pierre Jaquet from La Chaux de Fonds expands
An unprecedented watch forger-scandal shakes the Neuenburger law: along with manufacturer Jean-Pierre Jaquet sit also a dozen persons in pre-trial detention. Jaquet is charged with robbery, receiving of stolen goods, goods forgery and also hijacking.
By Markus Steudler and Daniel Hug
It was a unique action when about twenty officials of the Neuenburger canton police appeared on Tuesday morning on the grounds of the watch firm Jaquet SA in La Chaux de Fonds then bolted the entrance and searched the building. Head of the company Jean-Pierre Jaquet was arrested, the company Jaquet SA with its 160 employees was closed for two days.
The hard inquiry method, explained examining magistrate Sylvie Favre, has taken place within the scope of a wide investigation to watch and precious metal thefts . Favre supposed to find tips to the production of phoney luxury watch in the Jaquet SA or her sphere. In the knowledge around the risks for the region the examining magistrate pushed after: Everything is risked that the economy of the region is not impaired by the current and perhaps future inquiries. The fear of an image loss may dwindle in the Neuenburger law which lives to a great extent from the watch branch, however, not so fast. The affair expands: Meanwhile there are a dozen people in pre-trial detention , says Favre. Possibly half of them have confessed.
Shots at the factory
Not confessing is 57-year-old Jean-Pierre Jaquet who stands in the center of the inquiries. The watchwork designer could be the head of a well organized forger and fence ring. Favre suspects him of the robbery, the instigation to robbery, the receiving of stolen goods, the goods forgery, the attempted instigation to arson and also of the freedom deprivation and hijacking. During the last weeks Jaquet has become meanwhile a victim of threats of force; in the end, a possible power escalation, so sphere is supposed in Jaquets, has been a release for the police action.
My client and his family have received murder threats during the last weeks , says Jaquets lawyer Freddy Rumo. One has shot at his office, and once he had to be treated in the hospital, after him three persons had knocked him down. Trusted sources from the sphere of the Jaquet SA tell of two cars which have driven up one night at the factory and have been fired shots at the chief office. Shot holes in Jaquets office should testify of it. Of the cowboy's methods in - wild - Swiss west, however, not enough is known: Once Jaquet should have escaped on the run before the aggressors with a jump in the Doubs. Hence, the charge of the hijacking says that Jaquet one of the aggressors who sits now in pretrial detention has invited home and laid, besides, a pistol on the table , says Rumo.
About the reason for the aggressions there are several hypotheses. I believe, the people wanted to blackmail money. At least, Jaquet has done very good business , says Rumo. However, this is not what the investigation authorities believe in, as the lawyer confirms: The investigators charge my client; the aggressors would have committed robberies and thefts by his order for which he has still owed money to them. He has seen proofs of it?, according to Rumo, none.
Dubious theft series
Against it statements of imprisoned Jaquet mount. Among the arrested is the head of the foreman's work Miranda in La Chaux de Fonds. This firm, respectively one of her instructed courier's service, became in 2002 victims of a robbery raid. Several strangers carried off golden Rolex cases to the value of half a million francs. A 35-year-old Bosnian was arrested and was condemned to 5,5 years of prison. His accomplices and principals are not determined. The Rolex cases from which perfect forgeries can be made, remained disappeared.
Another unsettled case is the burglary in the watch firm RSM in Le Locle from June, 2002 when two armed employees demanded to open the safe deposit and ten kilograms of gold vanished. There was, according RSM manager Ivano Magistrini, further thefts in other firms. The last of the dubious series is that at the watch firm Ulysse Nardin in Le Locle. Before a watch auction on the 19th March, 2003 in New York in the catalog of the firm Antiquorum a Ulysse Nardin model appeared which was not yet on the market. Our searches proved that an employee with us had stolen the watch, says Ulysse Nardin patron Rolf W. Schneider. All together the man has stolen about 20 watches, mostly very expensive pieces with retail prices to 40,000 francs. It turned out that he had stolen watch already with his two earlier employers - and resold to people in the sphere of Jaquet , says Schneider. Jaquet had earlier owned a small pawnshop and with it has had always an excuse when with him when he has been charged that he puts on the market stolen watches.
The inquiries to the Ulysse Nardin case brought the authorities obviously on Jaquets track. The phone of my client was monitored for one year , says lawyer Rumo. Examining magistrate Favre explains: It is an object of the inquiries whether there is a connection between the various cases and whether Jaquet has to act a little bit with it. The man who should often carry a pistol on himself and be previously convicted because of a property offense has the call of a clever designer, however, he also counts as audaciously and cold-blooded. Jaquet was known in the branch for the fact that he set down luxury watch above the gray market abroad. Besides, one has with the Swatch Group clues for forgeries: We have found phoney watch in which a work was inserted by Jaquet , says Anton Bally, head to the Swatch subsidiary eta.
On Wednesday evening Jaquet has withdrawn with his Jaquet SA from all functions. He still remains a stockholder. The new head Frdric Wenger stresses that the firm whose capital majority has gone over in the first semester in 2003 to new investors is not under suspicion of the investigators. The investigation authorities have found no clue for any offenses with us , he says.
Supplier of the big watch brands
The Jaquet SA been based by former antiquarian Jean-Pierre Jaquet is specified to refine so-called raw watchworks (Ebauches) of the Swatch subsidiary eta, to do alterations and to extend complicated mechanisms; big date, split seconds, perpetual calendar or Seconde Foudroyante (which measures fractions of one second). Today Jaquet in the possession is the holding company which belongs by the majority Frdric Wenger, Eric Loth, Rudolf Bohli and about five other investors. Jaquet should still hold 40% of the capital. In 2001, Jaquet according to a proficient presentation a turnover of 22 Mil. Frs of most important customers were Franck Muller (17% of sales interest), Girard Perregaux (12%), sense (9%), Maurice Lacroix (8%), Journe (6%), Eberhard (5%), Richemont (5%). (dah).
Business with Ernst Thomke
The affair around Jean-Pierre Jaquet throws a shade on the Swiss entrepreneur and earlier Swatch manager: Ernst Thomke is a long-standing business partner of Jaquet. In 1995 Thomke had helped to found the firm British master (BM) in La Chaux de Fonds. Thomke and Jaquet hold 25% in the share capital of the society, above all under the name Arnold & Son and Graham luxury watches in the top price segment produces and markets. Another block of shares is held by BM manager Eric Loth. The English Masters watch are produced practically exclusively in the studios by Jaquet.
Besides, Frdric Wenger, present finance head and since the last week is a head of the company of the Jaquet group, a good friend of Thomke. Once he worked at the bank on the Bellevue, is connected with the Thomke since his time as Sour-Sanierer. Ernst Zngerle, also he a Thomke confidant, has organized the whole logistics for Jaquet. Zngerle tried before together with Thomke the renovation of the shoe manufacturer Bally and today sits together with him in the administrative council of themedical technology company Nobel Biocare.
Also the Eric Loth who was performed in August, 2001 as a manager by Jaquet SA cooperates for many years with Thomke (in the bases for Jaquet investors with ET called). Thomke was not able to be reached this week for a statement. Trusted sources around Thomke in August have expressed heavy doubts in the integrity of Jaquets. Nevertheless, he has obviously undertaken nothing to remove Jaquet from his positions. Only the intervention of the examining magistrate led to this step.
Thomke, the long-standing opponent of Swatch patron Nicolas G. Hayek, also remains as a majority owner of Metalor with the watch industry: the enterprise with about 1000 employees is the biggest manufacturer of golden cases in Switzerland. (dah).
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