A Swiss luxury watch was reported stolen in Singapore but resurfaced in Hong Kong two years later, under a new owner's name.
Now, a Hong Kong court has ordered that it be returned to the original buyer.
Mr Scott James Duncan, whose nationality was not stated in court papers, bought the Royal Oak watch made by Audemars Piguet for $8,686 in 2011 from an authorised dealer here.
In July the next year, he reported its loss to Audemars, which listed the watch on its stolen watch file.
But in March this year, the watch reappeared when it was dropped off at Audemars' Hong Kong premises for servicing by one Liu Song Bo, a Chinese national based on the mainland who claimed to be the new owner.
The Royal Oak watch range, first made in 1972, was the first to use steel rather than gold or silver for its case and band, and is reported to have created the market for luxury stainless steel watches.
Audemars applied to the court to rule on ownership between the two claimants, after seeking more details from both men.
The court, in judgment grounds on Tuesday, said Mr Duncan's purchase in Singapore was well recorded.
Mr Liu, on the other hand, had failed to appear at the hearing last month, though an invoice was produced to support his claim that he had bought the watch in Cambodia in December last year for 5,500 in an unknown currency, noted the judge.
Hong Kong deputy district judge J. Chow noted that the Cambodian shop - Lim Watches and Jewellery Shop - was not an authorised dealer for the brand.
"No further evidence, for instance, a certificate of guarantee, came to support the second claimant as the true owner of the watch," he said in decision grounds.
"Without taking adverse inference against the second defendant of his default of appearance, the evidence is overwhelmingly clear," he added.
He found that Mr Duncan's purchase in Singapore was well documented, noting that he had made a valid police report and, as owner, had taken it back to Audemars for maintenance on various occasions.
"I am driven to the conclusion that the true owner of the watch must be (Mr Duncan) and I so order," said the judge. Mr Liu was ordered to bear the legal costs.
This article was first published on Nov 22, 2014.
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