Master smugglers

May 8, 2017
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Despite being well rewarded for international successes, elite Hungarian athletes were able to supplement their income by smuggling. There were none better at working the angles than the water polo players.

On one occasion, after passing through Vienna after an international tournament, the team picked up a large quantity of DOXA watches, a Swiss brand much in demand on the black market in Budapest.

To conceal them from customs officials they sewed most of them their water polo balls. Those that did not fit into the balls were stowed under the train seats in their carriage. Sports officials turned a blind eye to smuggling, as did customs officials. On this occasion, the customs officials did their usual perfunctory search, but one of them accidentally knocked one of the balls as he was passing through. Soon the carriage was filling with the noise of ticking watches. The players say that they were able to convince the customs officials that there was nothing unusual. More likely, the customs officials knew not to pursue the matter. After all, the members of the Hungarian water polo team were legends. They were untouchable.

After the customs officials had left, the players decided that it was too dangerous to leave with their booty, so they stowed the watches under the seats. They knew that the train was not leaving until the morning.  Most of the players were members of the army or police force, which gave them good wages, with no other duties than to train. This was how Hungarian athletes could claim that they were amateurs when they clearly were professional sportspeople. So later that night, Nick Martin returned to the train, now wearing his police uniform – he was a lieutenant – and retrieved the watches.




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