Michael Gubbins, a chief superintendent in Ireland who commands the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB), says that luxury Swiss watches, often worth tens of thousands of euros, are being used by organised crime gangs to buy contraband and settle debts.
In an interview with The Sunday Times in the UK, he said that some criminals are buying new Rolex and Hublot watches to use as a form of currency and store of wealth that can be easily sold or transported if needed.
“These are no ordinary watches but are worth tens of thousands each. Branded watches are now used for currency: it’s running-away money,” CS Gubbins said.
“These watches can be easily transported. They are high-value items which you can wear on your wrist if you need to vanish. They can easily be sold for serious money. If we get a watch on a search these days, there are more than likely a few more hidden away. It’s just a matter of finding them.”
The CAB shows what it has seized on its social media channels before selling them at auction.
The bureau’s Facebook feed shows streams of photographs of impounded goods including watches from Rolex, AP, Hublot and Patek Philippe alongside cars, cash and luxury caravans.
Legitimate retailers of new or pre-owned luxury watches are urged to be on their guard because the trade is supporting dangerous criminals.
The majority of the CAB’s targets are drug dealers, according to CS Gubbins, who he says have been generating huge amounts of cash despite the pandemic.