Skip to main content

Louvre hit by Chinese counterfeit ticket scam

By Simon Busch, CNN
September 16, 2013 -- Updated 1421 GMT (2221 HKT)
Paris, the capital of France, has become a popular destination for Chinese travelers over the years.
Paris, the capital of France, has become a popular destination for Chinese travelers over the years.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Chinese gangs may be behind forging of thousands of fake Louvre passes
  • One haul alone -- in Belgium -- worth almost $200,000
  • France reportedly wary of diplomatic fallout
  • Chinese social media users "embarrassed"

(CNN) -- First it was Chinese tourists apparently being targeted by criminal gangs in Paris.

Roma pickpocketing crews were reportedly picking on Chinese travelers because of their habit of carrying plenty of cash with them.

Now the tables seem, in a way, to be turned.

French authorities suspect Chinese organized criminals to be behind the circulation of thousands of fake tickets to Paris' Louvre -- the world's most visited art gallery -- in a scam worth hundreds of thousands of euros.

Chinese tourists targeted in France
Backlash against Chinese tourists

The museum was alerted to the swindle at the beginning of August when a staff member became suspicious of a ticket handed over by a Chinese tour guide, France 24 reports.

The ticket "felt strange to the touch and the paper quality was not good. All our staff were immediately put on the alert," a Louvre spokesperson told Le Parisien.

Upping their game

But the criminals behind the scam appear to have upped their game at some point -- or more than one gang is operating.

Days later, the Louvre discovered fake tickets that at first appeared "in every way identical to the genuine article," the spokesperson said.

Then, at the end of August, Belgian customs officers seized more than 4,000 forged Louvre passes in a parcel from China.

The counterfeit tickets being worth at least €36 ($48) each, that haul alone would have saved the scammers at least €144,000 (about $191,000).

Read more: Chinese tourists targeted in Paris pickpocketing spate

The Belgian discovery has sparked a French criminal investigation into whether criminal gangs in China are collaborating with Chinese tour operators in Paris to profit from the fake tickets, the Louvre said.

However, French officials are reportedly wary of commenting publicly on the investigation for fear of causing diplomatic embarrassment with China.

Scope of scam uncertain

The Louvre as yet has no idea of the scope of the scam.

"Our tickets are valid for a year. There's no telling how many are in circulation and there's no way as yet of calculating the cost of this scam to the museum," the Louvre said.

The gallery would "enhance [its] anti-counterfeiting system" in response to the forgeries, the gallery told the Beijing Times, emphasizing that it continued to welcome Chinese tourists.

French diplomats may be right to tread warily around the incident.

Comments on Chinese social media expressed concern about the damage the scam could do to China's image.

"Can you please stop forging? This is so embarrassing!" read one post on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter (link in Chinese language only).

"Ticket holders may not know the tickets are fake -- yet Chinese people are the ones being shamed," read another.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
The Y-40 Deep Joy, the world's deepest swimming pool at the Hotel Millepini Terme in Montegrotto Terme, Italy.
An Italian spa complex adds new depths to the hotel swimming pool concept with a 42-meter plunge chamber.
September 25, 2014 -- Updated 0036 GMT (0836 HKT)
Whether spiraling up mountains or sky-scraping attractions, these stairs give new meaning to the phrase "watch your step".
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1429 GMT (2229 HKT)
Even during the harshest periods of the communist era, being Shanghainese had a special cachet in China.
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 1252 GMT (2052 HKT)
Up the Inside Passage on a heritage tugboat, sport fishermen chase British Columbia's monster salmon.
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 0741 GMT (1541 HKT)
New York to London in three hours? The European aviation giant is joining the race to make it happen.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 1007 GMT (1807 HKT)
Which cities provide the most memorable party times? A self-proclaimed "nightlife connoisseur" names his top 10.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 0344 GMT (1144 HKT)
Whether you're looking for a post-meeting pint or a wild night out, creativity is on the menu at these hot Hong Kong venues.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 1028 GMT (1828 HKT)
An image showing the Istanbul district of Beyoglu where gentrification is changing the face of the neighborhood and leading the closure of many old shops and establishments.
Artists and migrants are moving out as a once-crumbling neighborhood goes upscale.
September 20, 2014 -- Updated 0502 GMT (1302 HKT)
They irrigate our farms, are an important means of transport and a source of eco-friendly power.
ADVERTISEMENT