Russian FSB Seized Millions of Dollars Swiss Watches in Retaliation For Western Sanctions

Russian secret-service agents confiscated millions of dollars’ worth of luxury watches from a Swiss watchmaker in apparent retaliation against Switzerland’s sanctions over the Ukraine war, Switzerland’s NZZ am Sonntag newspaper reported over the weekend.

The watches were confiscated from a local subsidiary of Audemars Piguet in Moscow earlier this month, the report said. Audemars Piguet, a nearly 150-year-old family-owned business, makes luxury watches that typically cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Russian authorities cited customs offenses for the seizure of the watches, but Switzerland’s foreign ministry said in a confidential memo that it was most likely “an arbitrary repressive measure in reaction to the sanctions,” NZZ am Sonntag reported.

On February 28, Switzerland departed from its historically neutral status to sanction Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. The restrictions include a ban on the export of luxury goods to Russia.

Russia was the 17th-largest market for Swiss watch exports in 2021, accounting for 260.1 million Swiss francs’ worth of shipments, or about $280 million, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.

Audemars Piguet did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment sent outside regular business hours. A spokesperson for Switzerland’s foreign affairs department told Insider the country’s embassy in Moscow “is currently maintaining a very intensive exchange” with Swiss companies in Russia.

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