Money Laundering Raid: S$7m watch among items seized in S’pore

A S$250,000 Hermes Birkin bag and a rare Patek Philippe watch that costs over S$7 million on the resale market are said to be among the items seized in raids this week conducted by Singapore police in a billion-dollar money laundering case.

Three industry experts, and those who own businesses reselling such designer goods, said these luxury items are not easily bought.

On Tuesday, 10 foreigners holding passports from countries such as China, Turkey and Cambodia were arrested in an anti-money laundering operation. Cash and assets of about S$1 billion were seized, frozen or issued prohibition of disposal orders, which mean they cannot be sold.

The nine men and one woman, aged 31 to 44, were charged on Wednesday over their suspected involvement in offences including forgery, money laundering and resisting arrest. All 10 are originally from Fujian, China.

Another 12 are assisting in investigations, while eight others are on the run and have been placed on a wanted list.

The police said more than 250 luxury bags and watches were seized in the raids.

Photos of the seized designer goods showed rows of extravagant watches, with most priced over S$250,000, said William Tan, manager of luxury watch dealer Watch Exchange.

Tan said one watch in the collection appears to be a Sky Moon Tourbillon by Swiss luxury watch manufacturer Patek Philippe, and is expected to fetch a price of over S$7 million on the resale market.

The South China Morning Post reported this rare model sold for a record US$5.8 million (S$7.8 million) earlier this year, a sale that marked one of the highest prices paid for a timepiece at an auction.

Luxury watch and bag dealers said interested buyers cannot just walk into shops and buy these highly sought-after items, even if they had the cash.

There is usually a long waiting list for popular models and, if a coveted piece is available, priority would go to VIP buyers. These buyers must have a long purchase history with the brand, said people in the industry.

Another watch seen in the collection is believed to be a Richard Mille RM 07-02 with a sapphire case, which can fetch a price of around S$2 million on the resale market.

Tan said this piece, which is tough for keen buyers to get their hands on at the boutique, was seen on the wrist of American rapper Nicki Minaj in 2021.

He added that what appears to be a Rolex Daytona Rainbow watch, which costs more than S$600,000 on the resale market, can also be seen in the photos. This is more than triple the retail price of the watch.

Tan said one collection of 32 watches shown in one of the photos is estimated to set a buyer back by S$30 million. Other brands of watches seen in the collection include Chopard, Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier.

The collection of bags seized is estimated to also cost millions of dollars, those in the business of reselling designer handbags told The Straits Times.

Hermes, Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton and Prada bags can be seen in the photos, with some bags estimated to be worth over S$100,000.

One bag appears to be a specially made Hermes Birkin with matte alligator skin and brushed gold hardware, said the owner of a luxury bag resale business here.

She estimates the pastel green bag to cost around S$130,000. What looks like an Hermes Himalayan Birkin, a much sought-after item by many collectors, can also be seen on the shelves of the suspects.

Industry experts estimate the bag to cost around S$250,000, or even double that amount if the hardware is encrusted with diamonds.

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