90,000 Fake Watches Seized in Mexico City Raid

More than 90,000 counterfeits of 10 Swiss watch brands were seized in late January in Mexico City, in a raid involving the Federation of Swiss Watchmakers and Mexico’s federal authorities. It was “the most important seizure of fake watches ever carried out” in Latin America, says a report by the FH, and “struck a telling blow against the [Mexican] capital’s counterfeiters.”

The project was initiated by FH’s Latin America representative, based in Asuncion, Paraguay, and its Latin American anti-counterfeiting group “Groupement anticontrefaçon” GA (Anticounterfeiting Group GA), whose members include major Swiss brands. The FH and GA spent six months working with the Mexican federal public prosecutor’s department and local law enforcement authorities to investigate and prepare the operation.

The Jan. 20 raid occurred in the district of Tepito, reportedly known for underworld activities and trafficking in illicit goods.

“It is home to a multitude of shops, small workshops, and clandestine warehouses, as well as an enormous market overflowing with counterfeit articles and products derived from contraband,” says the FH report.

Fake watches are generally stored in warehouses—and even assembled there, sometimes—before being sold by traders or channeled to markets elsewhere.

Some 300 men—including local police, officers of Mexico’s federal investigation agency, and specialists from the public prosecutor’s department—stormed suspected warehouses in the middle of the night to prevent what the FH report calls “wider repercussions.” (Warehouse operators there have been known to confront law enforcement officers to protect their goods.)

In addition to the fake watches and the arrest of two people, police also found caches of large caliber weapons, drugs, and a workshop to reproduce pirated CDs. That’s one more demonstration, says the FH, that “trafficking in counterfeit watches is closely bound up with trafficking in weapons and narcotics overseen by organized crime.”

Putting together such joint-action raids is one objective of the GA, formed in 2000. It also trains customs officials and other authorities in how to identify fakes; lobbies authorities for better legislation against counterfeiters, and better enforcement of it; provides technical expertise when needed, and keeps close contacts with the media.