Italian thieves return watch to victim after realizing it was fake

Julia Buckley, CNNPublished 22nd July 2022
The incident took place in the popular tourist area around Piazza del Plebiscito.
(CNN) — They say hospitality in Naples is second to none, and one tourist got a singular experience of the Italian city when thieves robbed him of his watch at gunpoint -- then brought it back when they realized it was fake.
Two Swiss tourists sitting down for a drink just before midnight on Sunday in Piazza Trieste e Trento, one of the city's main squares, were approached by a young man, who pulled out a gun and held it to the head of one of the men, before grabbing his watch and walking off.
Seven minutes later, another young man made his way through the cafe's outdoor seating area, raising his hands in a gesture of apology, saying sorry, and then delivered the watch back to its owner.
The extraordinary footage was captured on the CCTV camera of the bar where they were sitting, Monidee Café.
Piazza Trieste e Trento is in the heart of Naples, with the Royal Palace and opera house, the Teatro San Carlo, in pride of place. Leading on to the famous, colonnaded Piazza del Plebiscito, and bordering the ritzy Chiaia neighborhood, the busy square is known for its cafes and bars, with tourists flocking to the historical Gran Caffe Gambrinus.
Naples has long struggled with its reputation, and while tourism is booming, a spate of watch thefts this summer has led to one tourism boss suggesting that hotels give out plastic watches for visitors to use.
In the CCTV footage, two Swiss male tourists are sitting in the busy outdoor area of the bar, as people walk past on the busy sidewalk, including a heavy-set young man in t-shirt and shorts.
The mugger drew the gun in full view of tourists as he approached his victim.
The mugger drew the gun in full view of tourists as he approached his victim.
Antonio Visconti
As the waiter brings the menu to the tourists and heads back inside, the young man is seen walking round the side of the cordoned-off seating area, and then walking in from the square towards the tourists. He pulls out a gun and holds it to the tourist's head while ripping the watch off his wrist. The incident is over in seconds, and the tourists look in shock as they explain what just happened to the waiter.
The youth held the tourist at gunpoint as he stole his watch.
The youth held the tourist at gunpoint as he stole his watch.
Antonio Visconti
But subsequent footage, taken just seven minutes later, shows the tourists -- who decided to stay for their drink -- being approached by another young man in a white t-shirt, waving his arms to show he's unarmed, and then giving them back the watch.
An accomplice then returned the watch and apologized.
An accomplice then returned the watch and apologized.
Antonio Visconti
The reason? It was a counterfeit watch, rather than the priceless Richard Mille contraption it purported to be.
But rather than a goodwill gesture, the owner of the bar said it was more likely to be an attempt to avoid legal reprisals.
"They brought it back saying 'Sorry, sorry,' maybe as an attempt to get him not to report it," Antonio Visconti told CNN.

Violence after dark

The tourist told the waiter that it had been an "adventure."
The tourist told the waiter that it had been an "adventure."
Antonio Visconti
The watch, if real, would have been a top prize for the thieves.
"They thought it was worth €300,000," Francesco Emilio Borrelli, a councillor for the Campania region for the Europa Verde party, who campaigns against crime in Naples, told CNN.
Borrelli said the square has been a hub of criminal activity for some time.
"In 2019 there was a 'stesa' [a mafia intimidation technique] with kids shooting into the sky. Another time, in 2018, there were delinquents circulating in the crowd, armed, to shoot another criminal. We had video of people fleeing in the middle of the square.
"A few weeks ago I shared a video of someone filming a Tiktok by swimming in the fountain. In the evening, [the piazza] becomes an illegal car park.
"I've been reporting problems in that piazza for some time, but there's no surveillance. It's a few feet from the prefecture, the [historical] superintendence and the army headquarters, and one of the most frequented squares by tourists. It's one of the least safe areas of the city, and it should be one of the safest."
Borrelli said that there are "groups of delinquent youths on scooters" committing crimes in the area at night, who have become so emboldened that they don't even bother disguising their identities.
"They don't care. They're using a pistol at 13, 14 years old -- the guy who did this knew how to use it, he even pointed it at the head of the Swiss tourist.
"They take the watches to be resold immediately, but [the people they take them to] are good, and immediately realized it wasn't genuine.
"So, knowing the law, they sent another kid to return it. Because they know the bars there have CCTV, and they know that images were recorded.
"And in front of the law, to have brought the watch back means a much lighter punishment. Because they've committed the robbery, but they did bring back the property."

'Bad publicity for Naples'

Piazza Trieste E Trento is one of the most visited areas of Naples.
Piazza Trieste E Trento is one of the most visited areas of Naples.
Photo Italia LLC/iStock Editorial/Getty Images
The co-owner of Monidee Café, Antonio Visconti -- who sent Borrelli the CCTV footage of the robbery in a bid to draw attention to what's happening in the piazza -- told CNN he was "regretful" about the incident.
"It's not just about our business, it's bad publicity for Naples," he told CNN.
"For years we've been saying the same things -- we need a social pact, we need to reboot our sector. We are not used to this kind of violence but we suffer aggression every day. We are waging a war against this kind of thing, but we are on our own."
On Thursday morning, he and Borrelli joined a flash mob in the square, protesting the "degradation and criminality" in the piazza.
The group demanded a fixed police patrol and CCTV after 11 p.m. and on weekends in the square.
Visconti and others have also met the prefect of Naples, who shared plans for the square with them, though he said the city council has been less forthcoming. The council did not respond to a request for comment.
The tourist, Visconti said, didn't seem scared by the incident. Not only did he stay on for the drink, but, said the owner, "He said, 'What a great adventure.'"