Police identify brain behind diamond theft

Swiss police say they have identified the man who organized a spectacular 8 million franc ($8.9 million) diamond robbery last year from the world's biggest watch and jewellery event in Basel.

The Basel prosecutor said on Friday a 54-year-old Croatian is on the run and he has an international arrest warrant out for him for the Baselworld heist.

He was not named.

Authorities say eight people participated in the robbery, but they have not all been identified. No arrests have been made to date and a new appeal for witnesses was launched on Friday.

On March 30th, 2011, thieves made off with a set of four diamonds from a window, after distracting the booth staff.

The theft victim, an Israeli diamond dealer, realised his loss 15 minutes after the thieves had left the exhibition hall in the city of Basel untouched.

No diamonds have been recovered.

Investigations found the theft was carried out by an eastern European group active worldwide that specialises in stealing jewellery, diamonds and valuable antiques.

The fair, which held each March and is open to the public, has been targeted by thieves on several occasions. In 2009, a robber stole 13 million francs of jewellery, but was rapidly caught.

In 2007, thieves made away with more than a million francs worth of jewellery.

Despite the thefts, organisers have said they see no reason to change security measures.

Baselworld opens on March 8th this year. It brings together names such as Rolex, Dior, Hublot, Blancpain and Chopard, who present their most prestigious collections to some 100,000 visitors who come from around the world.

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Swiss luxury giant Richemont sees profits halved on watch woes

Swiss luxury goods giant Richemont said Friday its full-year net profit was nearly cut in two as sales of high-end watches ticked lower.

Swiss luxury giant Richemont sees profits halved on watch woes
File photo: Richard Juilliart/AFP

Richemont, second only to France's LVMH in the luxury world, posted a net profit of 1.2 billion euros during its 2016/2017 fiscal year — down 46 percent from a year earlier.

Its sales meanwhile slumped to 10.6 billion euros, down from 11 billion during the previous 12-month period.

A drop in profits had been expected, since the results the company announced a year ago were padded with 639 million euros from the merger of its online sales platform Net-a-Porter and an Italian counterpart, Yoox.

But the fall was steeper than expected, with analysts polled by Swiss financial news agency AWP expecting the company to post a net profit of 1.3 billion euros on sales of 10.7 billion.

“The past year posed challenges for Richemont,” company chairman Johann Rupert acknowledged in a statement, pointing especially to “changes in demand, which particularly affected our watch businesses”.

The luxury watch sector has seen tough times since Chinese authorities banned giving expensive gifts as part of an anti-corruption crackdown in 2013, followed by democracy protests in 2014 hitting sales in Hong Kong.

READ ALSO: Why a Swiss company created a watch made from cheese

Faced with dwindling demand, Richemont has cut staff and also repurchased inventory from shops to help them remove models struggling to find buyers from display cases and make room for new collections.

The company, which owns top global brands such as Jaeger LeCoultre, Van Cleef & Arpels and IWC, saw its watch sales slump 11 percent during the past fiscal year, which ended on March 31st.

Its operating margin meanwhile was more than halved to 7.8 percent due to its repurchasing of inventory and efforts to scale back its production capacity.

Following the announcement, Richemont saw its share price drop 4.15 percent to 81.75 Swiss francs (75 euros) a piece in early afternoon trading, as the Swiss stock exchange's main SMI index inched up 0.23 percent.