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Mexico raid sends warning to watch fraudsters

Jean-Daniel Pasche examines a fake watch (SF DRS)

The seizure of 20,000 fake Swiss watches in Mexico City has sent a warning to counterfeiters around the world, according to the Swiss watch industry.

The successful raid in Mexico City on August 8 was the result of a joint operation between local police and the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry's regional office.

Federation president Jean-Daniel Pasche told swissinfo that the operation was one part of a global strategy to clamp down on counterfeiters, who cost the Swiss watch industry an estimated SFr800 million ($634 million) a year.

"We have damaged the counterfeiting trade in Mexico and have sent out a strong message to counterfeiters around the world that we are active and protecting our rights.

"It was the result of a lot of hard work from our Ascension office who have spent many months developing contacts with the Mexican authorities.

"We have similar contacts with a number of countries globally which have led to other successes, and we will continue to pursue this policy."

Pasche pointed to a similar raid in Dubai in 2003 and the destruction of five tons of fake watches in Switzerland last year as proof of how effective the strategy has been. The next phase of operations this year will take place in Paraguay, he added.

China main target

The Swiss watch industry made around SFr11 billion ($8.74 billion) last year in exports. But an estimated 40 million counterfeit watches flood into the market annually, compared with the 26 million timepieces legally made in Switzerland.

Pasche admitted that the federation still has some way to go before the tide of counterfeiting is turned, particularly in China.

"China is the number one place for manufacturing fake goods, not just watches," he said. "We have just started there and have support from the police, but we need to invest time in developing contacts and in discussions.

"It will also take time to change the culture. In some towns in China it is seen as perfectly normal to sell fakes openly. We also need more pressure on China from around the world to protect our intellectual property.

"To reduce counterfeiting we need to maintain regular activity to force the counterfeiters to be less open about what they are doing, which will reduce their effectiveness."

swissinfo, Matthew Allen

Key facts

Counterfeiting costs the Swiss watch industry an estimated SFr800 million ($634 million) per year.
Swiss watch companies generated more than SFr11 billion ($8.74 billion) in 2004 from exports.

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