Swatch Group sues Malaysian govt over seizures of Pride watches

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Swiss watchmaker Swatch Group has filed a lawsuit against the Malaysian government and Home Ministry officials to seek compensation and the return of 172 seized Swatch-branded watches which were allegedly linked to Pride, otherwise known as the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights movement.

In its lawsuit, Swatch Group wants the High Court to issue an order to quash the Home Ministry’s seizure notices in May for the 172 watches worth RM64,795, and a court order for all the seized watches to be returned within five days of the order.

The company is also seeking a court order for compensation, including in the form of aggravated and exemplary damages.

The Swatch Group (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd had on June 24 filed the lawsuit via a judicial review application at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur. It named the four respondents as the Home Ministry chief secretary, the Home Ministry’s enforcement division’s secretary, the home minister and the government of Malaysia.

A judicial review is usually filed to challenge the actions or decisions of the government and public bodies and is where those filing the lawsuit ask the courts to review those government decisions.

Based on court documents sighted by Malay Mail, Swatch Group had filed the lawsuit as it claimed that the Home Ministry’s officers had acted illegally, irrationally, with procedural impropriety and that their actions were allegedly disproportionate and for an improper purpose.

According to Swatch Group, it had been selling its watches since 1995 in Malaysia via its stores which mostly employ Malaysians and through authorised resellers.

Swatch Group said Home Ministry officers had from May 13 to May 15 raided 16 of its stores throughout Malaysia and seized the 172 watches featuring nine different designs.

The ministry issued seizure notices stating the watches as promoting or having “elements” of LGBT, and giving the reason that the watches were in breach or suspected to be in breach of the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) 1984. Out of the 172 watches seized, a total of 143 units featured six designs from the Pride collection launched on May 4, 2023, and which had been advertised on Swatch’s website since that date.

The remaining 29 units featuring three other designs were from the previous years’ Pride collections and had been available for sale in Malaysia since June 2, 2022, or slightly more than 11 months before the Home Ministry’s seizures. – MMO