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
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
Translated by David Sadegh