Swiss prosecutor investigates Franck Muller Watchland

The attorney general of the Swiss canton of Geneva is looking into allegations that well-known Swiss luxury watch company Franck Muller Watchland used undocumented workers, say Swiss press reports. Officials of Watchland, located in the Geneva suburb of Genthod, denied the charges.

The preliminary investigation began Jan. 5, say the Swiss French-language “Radio Romande,” which first reported the story, and the Swiss newspapers Le Matin and Tribune de Genève.

The prosecutor, Daniel Zappelli, acted on complaints from Geneva luxury watchmaker Franck Muller, who last year left the company he co-founded in 1991; two Geneva government officials—Micheline Spoerri, minister of justice, and Carlo Lamprecht, minister of economics; and the trade union FTMH.

According to published reports, Muller allegedly questioned his now-former partner Vartan Sirmakes last April about 20 supposedly unlicensed Watchland employees, most of them reportedly Armenian, and about cars and apartments allegedly provided them by the company.

In August, after Muller had left the company, he reportedly took his suspicions to Spoerri and also contacted FTMH, which reports say also gathered information about allegedly questionable dismissals at Watchland. Shortly before Christmas, Muller and his attorneys filed a formal deposition with Geneva’s attorney general, say the press reports.

Vartan Sirmakes, co-founder and chief executive officer of Franck Muller Watchland, told Le Matin that there wasn’t any illegal work situation at the company. “The working conditions are very good,” he said. In fact, he noted, “We’ve just increased wages.” As for dismissals, he said that happens in any company. Didier Decker, Watchland’s administrative director and chief financial officer, told the Tribune de Genève that the company would soon issue a press release responding to “the serious and untrue charges.”

Meanwhile, the Geneva attorney general said he would wait for the results of the preliminary investigation before deciding how to proceed.