News from Paris

February 28, 2002


"River Metro" Project (3/1)

The Slang of the Suburbs (2/25)

"France Is Not Anti-Semitic" (2/24)

What Is Your Favorite Meal? (2/23)

Diana's Fans Are Deprived of Their Flame (2/21)

American Squabbles (2/19)

The Champs-Elysées Are No Longer A Paradise For Cinemas (2/18)

How Do You Celebrate Valentine's Day? (2/14)

Duplicitous Ticket Booths at the Eiffel Tower

Duplicitous ticket booths have been operating for several years at the registers of the Eiffel Tower, the most visited monument in France. The city of Paris made a statement yesterday morning that "the management of the SNTE (the organization that operates the Eiffel Tower) has filed charges against X for embezzelment practiced at his prejudice, following a manipulation of the ticketing system." Previously, Tuesday afternoon, the monument's enterprise committee, which employs 250 people, had been informed of the charges. But no other information has come from either City Hall, the proprietor of the ediface, or from the administrative management of the tower.

Presumption of Embezzelment

According to certain sources, the police investigation that only just started could prove that the money from several tens of thousands of admissions was embezzled each year for the past nine years. At an average entry price of 6 euros, the swindle could reach a level of several million euros. The idea for the fraud had come from the first bugs in the ticket machines that appeared at the time of its installation in 1993. On the occassion of filling the ticket printers, a certain number of entry tickets, incompatible, were destroyed in all legality. Certain employees had therefore had the idea of repeating voluntarily these technical incidents. It was thus possible to embezzle and sell at their profit the tickets supposedly destroyed. This double receipt was not recorded in the central register of the tower. By subtle mini-frauds of about ten tickets at a time that occured punctually in the registers installed in the four pillars of the tower, in the guise of the ficticious breakdowns, the swindle supposedly was imperceptible. But the perpetrators ignored the fact that a second informational system of surveillance recorded all the breakdowns.

It is the repetition of the technical incidents at certain registers that alerted the management of the Eiffel Tower. It could thus compare all the register results. It was these elements of proof that incited them yesterday to file charges. "We have repaired the faults and anomalies in the ticketing system. We have thus a presumption of embezzlement. The court must now do its work," indicated Luc Echavidre, director of the SNTE. Jean-Bernard Bros, assistant to the mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, and president of the joint committee that runs the ediface, added that "the investigation must determine the exact amount of the embezzlement and the number of people involved. The penal procedure will follow if necessary, as well as the eventual internal sanctions against the employees." A principle that has moreover been accepted by the syndicates of the enterprise. At the scene yesterday, behind their ticket windows, the cashiers reacted with surprise. "We don't know anything about it," emphasized several employees, without showing the least fear.

In a monument that last year received 6,103,987 visitors, and that has a turnover of 50 million euros, the smallest fraud could easily reach an exceptional size.

Original article by Eric Le Mitouard

Translated by David Sadegh