"It's happened to a lot of people I know."
According to a Delhi entrepreneur, India’s business elite feel they have to “look over their shoulder” when in London due to the frequency of watch muggings.
In recent years, the theft of expensive watches to be sold on the black market has become a criminal enterprise in London.
Data from Watchfinder & Co in 2023 showed the number of stolen watches in England and Wales nearly doubled between 2015 to 2022 – from 6,696 to 11,035.
Over 6,000 of the thefts in 2022 took place in London.
High-profile targets include Amir Khan, who was forced to hand over his £70,000 Franck Muller watch at gunpoint.
The concern comes after Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy – who is in Delhi for talks on geopolitics and commerce – attended a meeting of members of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
Indian renewable energy entrepreneur Devin Narang chaired the meeting and said:
“We were discussing how to increase business between our two countries and areas of concern, and I mentioned that there were a lot of concerns about Indian CEOs getting mugged.
“It’s happened to a lot of people I know.”
He said Mr Lammy responded by saying it was an “issue that would be addressed”.
While Mr Narang has not been a target when in London, he said between five and eight Indian businesspeople have told him they have been mugged in the past few years.
He told Sky News: “One of them got his watch taken, his wrist got slashed and his watch was taken away, where the American embassy used to be in Mayfair.
“Another had their bag picked up and taken while they were in a store in Oxford Street.”
Mr Narang’s friends and family who have visited London in recent years feel they have to “look over their shoulder” while visiting the city’s upmarket areas.
He added: “It’s not only Indian people.
“I am told that people from other countries have also stopped wearing expensive watches and bags, as well as jewellery that might be taken.”
However, the watch muggings are not deterring Indian businesspeople from coming to London.
In Mr Narang’s experience, Delhi does not have the same problem with muggings:
“We don’t have to look over our shoulder.”
British officials reportedly confirmed that the possibility of being mugged on London’s streets ranks alongside immigration delays at Heathrow as a concern for India’s elite.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Mayor of London has insisted that the capital is “one of the safest global cities in the world”.
They said: “The Met have stepped up their response to robberies – which are rising nationally – and have specialist teams out proactively targeting the most prolific offenders and robbery hotspots.
“The mayor is also investing record sums to reinvigorate frontline policing to prevent crime in our busy high streets, tourist locations and transport hubs.
“He [the mayor] will continue to do all he can to support the Met and hold them to account on tackling robberies and supporting victims to build a safer London for everyone.”
In January 2024, it was revealed that undercover officers had been wearing luxury watches to catch robbers red-handed.
Footage showed thieves being being tasered, rugby-tackled and wrestled to the ground in Soho after trying to rip the high-value timepieces from their wrists.