Arnold Schwarzenegger detained over luxury watch at German airport

Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks onstage during The Wall Street Journal's Tech Live Conference at Montage Laguna Beach on October 16, 2023 in Laguna Beach, California. (Photo by Phillip Faraone / Getty Images)

Hollywood action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger was held at Munich airport on Wednesday for failing to declare an expensive watch, a customs spokesman told media.

The Austrian-born actor and former governor of California, 76, was detained in the customs area on Wednesday afternoon after arriving from the United States, spokesman Thomas Meister said.

Schwarzenegger was expected to be able to continue his journey later in the day but “the watch will probably have to stay”, Meister said.

He said criminal proceedings were initiated against the “Terminator” star and former bodybuilding icon for tax evasion.

A tax should have been paid on the watch because Schwarzenegger intended to sell it in the European Union, according to Meister.

The luxury timepiece was due to be auctioned at a fundraising dinner for Schwarzenegger’s climate initiative in Kitzbuehel on Thursday, the Bild daily reported.

According to the initiative’s website, items typically auctioned at such dinners include works of art and signed memorabilia.

The bespoke timepiece was made specially for Schwarzenegger by luxury Swiss watchmaker Audemars Piguet, according to Bild.

Officials charged Schwarzenegger €35,000, including €4,000 in tax and a €5,000 penalty, according to Bild. The actor is said to have offered to pay the charge with his credit card, but German customs rules require half of the charge to be paid in cash. Customs officials are said to have accompanied Schwarzenegger to a bank to withdraw cash, before he was allowed to continue his journey.

A customs spokesperson told Sueddeutsche Zeitung: “If the goods remain in the EU, you have to declare them through customs. This applies to everyone, whether their name is Schwarzenegger or Müller, Meier, Huber.”

The watch was made especially for Schwarzenegger by the luxury Swiss watchmaker Audemars Piguet. Other lots at Thursday’s auction, which Schwarzenegger will host, include “a training session with Arnold Schwarzenegger himself”, as well as artworks, signed exhibits, and “experiences from the worlds of sports and film”.

“The proceeds will support the Schwarzenegger Climate Initiative, which organises the annual Austrian World Summit climate conference in Vienna and backs climate projects globally,” the charity says on its website.

“Schwarzenegger has been fighting pollution and climate change for over 20 years. His approach has always centered around the idea that we need ‘less talk, more action’.”