Time is up for criminal organisation counterfeiting luxury watches in Antwerp



15 suspects arrested in Belgium, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Israel for producing and importing fake watches to the “Diamond District”

Europol has supported a large-scale operation led by Belgian law enforcement authorities to dismantle an Israeli organised criminal group. The criminal organisation allegedly produced and imported counterfeit luxury watches and diamonds to Antwerp’s “Diamond District”. The successful operation led to the arrest of 15 suspects in Belgium (11), Israel (2), Netherlands (1) and Slovakia (1).

During the action day on 12 March, authorities also conducted 26 searches in Belgium, Israel, Netherlands and Slovakia, resulting in the seizure of: 

  • 165 luxury watches with certificates, jewellery and other counterfeit products;
  • 200 diamonds;
  • EUR 209 000 in cash;
  • Crypto ledgers;
  • Weapons;
  • 14 kg of drugs;
  • Multiple electronic devices, including phones and computers;
  • Credit cards and financial documentation.

Additional involvement in drug trafficking

The investigation started in 2022, when the police intercepted a package containing 600gr of cocaine in Brussels destined for Israel. Thanks to a subsequent investigation, it was revealed that a large criminal organisation which engaged in drug trafficking also counterfeited luxury items. According to law enforcement authorities, the criminal network manufactured fake luxury watches outside the EU by mixing original parts with fake components to mislead potential customers. 

Once the watches were produced, they would import them to Belgium and introduce counterfeit diamonds and watches into the market. Besides confusing buyers, this modus operandi also undermines the reputation of Antwerp’s “Diamond District” and calls into question the unique certification applied to these luxury items in which customers place their trust.

The suspects also trafficked cocaine and synthetic drugs across the world. They also laundered money through complex schemes, including cryptocurrencies, illegal banking systems and reinvestments in real estate, notably in Portugal.

Europol’s role in the investigation

Europol deployed specialists with expertise in cryptocurrencies and OSINT capabilities to Antwerp on the action day. The agency supported the investigation by fostering the exchange of information, organising operational meetings, and providing operational coordination and analytical support.

The operation was supported by the @ON Network, funded by the EU Commission and led by the Italian Anti-mafia Investigation Directorate (DIA).

Law enforcement authorities involved:

  • Belgium: Antwerp Police Department (Politiezone Antwerpen), Belgian Federal Police (Federale Gerechtelijke Politie, DSU), General Administration of Customs and Excise (Algemene Administratie van de Douane en Accijnzen), Federal Economic Inspection (FOD Economie).
  • Netherlands: Police Amsterdam (Politie Amsterdam), Investigators District East Amsterdam (District Oost Amsterdam), International Legal Assistant United Amsterdam (Internationaal Rechtshulp Centrum).
  • Portugal: Judicial Police (Polícia Judiciária), Asset Recovery Office-ARO (Gabinete de Recuperação de Ativos-GRA).
  • Slovakia: National Crime Agency of the Police Force Presidium (Národná kriminálna agentúra Prezídia Policajného zboru)
  • Israel: National Unit for serious and International crimes (Yahbal), NCB Jerusalem (MATAM).