The case between Tissot and CK Watch (Swatch Group), highly regarded by the watchmaking industry for its exceptional nature in an industry characterized by discretion, is nearing its epilogue. At least for the time being, because it already seems certain that whatever the outcome, the verdict will be reached on appeal. The task of the Court of the Mountains and Val de Ruz (NE) will be difficult as the parties have taken diametrically opposed views on the case in thirteen hours of pleadings.
For six hours and 48 minutes, Biel conglomerate representative Me Sven Engel worked to demonstrate that the accused – two former Tissot executives, one from CK Watch, as well as the French businessman of Chinese origin, who would have paid them 15 million francs Bribes – knowingly built a complex system just to enrich themselves at the expense of the brands.
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The businessman and Tissot’s purchasing manager are said to have worked together to set up two Chinese companies involved in the manufacture of printing and sapphire crystal. The first managed these subcontractors from Hong Kong, the second ensured that he was supplied with large volumes of orders with the help of the brand’s quality manager, who has since died. CK Watch Purchasing Manager contributed only for printed matter. In both cases, the prices were overpriced compared to the Chinese competition.
Due to their function, “their choice of supplier can hardly be questioned,” argued Me Engel, especially since intermediary companies conceal their actions. For Saphire, he notes that this concentration of orders “terribly endangered” Tissot’s security of supply, whose damage the Swatch Group estimates at 60 million francs. At CK Watch it would be 500,000 francs. Me Engel demands that stricter unfair corporate governance, but also corruption (active and passive) and increased money laundering be maintained.
No unfair management without a manager
The much less talkative defense attorneys, like the prosecution, believe corruption and money laundering are enacted. They add that the ex-executives cannot be considered managers because they had managers above them (department heads, brand directors, oversight bodies). You cannot therefore make yourself guilty of dishonest management, and certainly not of complicity in dishonest management towards the entrepreneur.
With regard to the damage, they accuse the legal departments of the Swatch Group of having fabricated tables that serve their cause without any factual basis. “For the most part, this is not enough to justify a condemnation,” said Me Marcel Eggler, defender of the Tissot frame. “We are dealing with a wealthy corporation that wants to make a mark on the backs of our customers. It’s David versus Goliath,” continues Me Marc Labbé, representing the frame of CK Watch. The indictment drafted by the public prosecutor’s office was sharply questioned by Me Philippe Grumbach, the entrepreneur’s lawyer: “It is incomplete and illegible. We don’t know what our clients are accused of, there is no evidence. This folder is empty!”
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In view of these few considerations and many others, everyone pleaded for acquittal. If convicted, they believe all of their clients should benefit from the grace period. As a reminder, prosecutors on Tuesday requested a 2-year suspended sentence against the former CK Watch executive, 3 years including 1 year fixed for Tissot’s and 4 years in prison for the businessman. Federal President Christian Hänni will announce his verdict on Friday at the end of the day.
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