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LUCERNE

Two more ‘Pink Panthers’ face robbery charges

Two more alleged members of the "Pink Panthers" gang of international jewel thieves are to face trial in Switzerland for heists there, AFP reported on Tuesday, citing Swiss police sources.

Two more 'Pink Panthers' face robbery charges
The Beau-Rivage Palace hotel in Lausanne, victim of a 2010 jewellery heist. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Wofratz

One of the two, a 34-year-old Serbian arrested in Turkey on an international warrant, will be extradited to Switzerland to stand trial, Schaffhausen cantonal police said in a statement.

He is accused of the armed robbery of a watch and jewellery store in the city of Schaffhausen in March 2011.

The haul of 150 watches and 66 pieces of jewellery, worth around 1.8 million Swiss francs ($1.96 million) has never been recovered.

A total of five individuals were believed involved in the robbery, police said.

A second Serb, aged 37, was arrested in Montenegro and extradited to Switzerland last year.

He allegedly acted as the getaway driver in both the Schaffhausen robbery and an April 2010 heist in the southwestern Swiss city of Lausanne.

The thieves in the Lausanne robbery made off with a loot of watches and jewellery from the Beau-Rivage Palace worth 500,000 francs ($545,000), which has also never been found.

The arrest of the suspects follows four- and five-year jail sentences handed to two other alleged members of the Pink Panthers by a Geneva court for their role in the holdup of a jewellery shop in Lucerne in March 2012.

The pair were convicted for stealing 78 watches worth 1.3 million francs.

All but one of the watches was recovered.

Members of the Pink Panthers were drawn from paramilitary circles in the former Yugoslavia.

The gang was given its name after British detectives found a diamond ring hidden in a jar of face cream, echoing an incident in Peter Sellers' 1963 comedy "The Pink Panther".

The smash-and-grab crime group is known to have stolen jewellery worth hundreds of millions of dollars in nearly 30 countries over the past decade.

Once seemingly untouchable, the gang has faced setbacks over recent years, with members arrested in a number of other countries including France, Greece,
Italy and Japan, as well as Switzerland.

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LUXURY

Swiss watch exports tick ahead nicely in April

Exports of Swiss watches rose nearly 14 percent year on year in April, trade figures showed on Tuesday, aided by strong demand from prime market Hong Kong.

Swiss watch exports tick ahead nicely in April
A giant screen at the stand of Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe on the eve of the opening of the 2018 Baselworld watch and jewellery show in March. Photo: AFP

“After a relatively calm March, growth moved ahead strongly in April,” the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said, noting exports for the first four months of the year rose 11 percent on the same period of 2017 to 6.7 billion Swiss francs (€5.8 billion, $6.75 billion).

March growth had been tepid at 4.8 percent, down on January's 12.6 and February's 12.9.

Read also: Sufficiently Swiss – at least 60 percent for watches

April's recovery of 13.8 percent saw exports hit 1.76 billion francs, driven by a healthy 43.4 percent rise in sales – a six-year high – to Hong Kong, a lucrative Asian market hub.

Other key markets also saw large rises, with exports to China and the United States clocking up increases of 11 percent and 12.8 percent respectively.

Europe was a mixed picture with German sales up 12.8 percent but sliding 14.7 percent in Britain, continuing a recent trend as the United Kingdom wrestles with Brexit.

The global picture has been healthier since a difficult period across 2015 and 2016 saw the sector take a hit after China introduced anti-counterfeiting measures, helping knock back sales of luxury goods.

That fallow period began with 2014 sit-in street protests in Hong Kong, dubbed the Umbrella Revolution, which saw a tail-off in visitor numbers from the mainland to the territory where many Chinese do much of their luxury shopping.

Terror attacks in Europe also had an effect on the European market in hitting tourism.

Read also: Six Swiss wedding gifts fit for a prince and his bride