Former employees of the Swatch Group in court

“I confirm that I have received dividends from two Hong Kong companies, but I have not penalized Tissot in any way,” said one of the defendants responsible for coordinating the brand at the Berge and Val-de-Ruz Criminal Court on Monday deliver. “I was not a shareholder and had no activities in either of these companies.”

When asked by President Christian Hänni about the fact that his son was employed by one of the two Chinese companies from which he received money, the accused replied that his son’s work there was not connected with Tissot and the Swatch Group.

The 60-year-old explained that he would not influence Tissot, for example, to choose the Hong Kong company as the sapphire crystal supplier because he had received financial sums – 13.2 million francs, according to the indictment. “The suppliers were selected in cooperation with the brand’s product, quality, purchasing and technology managers”.

No “instructions” from the supplier

“I would never have directed the choice of a subcontractor,” added the defendant. The Chinese company met the validation criteria in terms of price, quality and volume.

The defendant explained that between 1999 and 2013 the volume of watches sold at Tissot exploded and that the Swatch Group company Comadur in Le Locle could no longer keep up with the demand. The instruction was to work more with Chinese suppliers.

Another 47-year-old defendant, who was responsible for monitoring components of the CK Watch & Jewelry brand, admitted receiving money from the main defendant, who owns the Chinese companies. According to the indictment, he would have received 800,000 francs. “It’s a significant sum, but I haven’t decided on it,” he said.

The Frenchman, who has since settled in Moldova, explained that he had nothing to accuse of criminal law because he was not responsible for placing orders and negotiating prices. “I just opened a door to let the Chinese defendant in.

Active Bribery

The 51-year-old main defendant, who was based in Hong Kong at the time of the events and now resides in Vietnam, denies all of the crimes he has been charged with (active corruption, money laundering, complicity in unfair business conduct). He knew the other co-defendants at Comadur, where he worked.

Born in Cambodia, the Frenchman then set up his own companies in Hong Kong because he had many contacts in Asia. He explained that he paid the other co-defendants money for helping him break into the Marches. He wanted to say thank you to them, especially since they were also friends.

At the beginning of the hearing, the lawyers for the defendants asked for the trial to be postponed again, in particular because the civil lawsuits filed on Friday had arrived very late. The President of the Court considered that the dispatch was not late and that this did not justify the postponement of the hearing.

Civil conclusions of more than 60 million

The Swatch Group civil law accounts served on the parties amount to over 60 million francs in relation to Tissot and 500,000 francs in relation to CK Watches. The defense considers the amount “astronomical”.

Since the process has been going on for eight years, the issue of prescription will be the focus. The trial has already been adjourned twice. The first time due to the pandemic and the absence of the main suspect stranded in Vietnam, and the second time related to the lack of representation for the widow of a defendant who died on December 24, 2021. The latter is nevertheless affected by confiscation of assets.

While the trial is scheduled to last until Friday, the indictment will take place on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. /ATS-jha


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