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
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1056 GMT (1856 HKT)
Nonprofit Ethical Traveler has released its annual list of the developing countries doing the most to promote human rights and preserve their environments.
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1036 GMT (1836 HKT)
These waterfront watering holes have killer ocean views, creative drinks and the mahalo vibe we demand.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 2038 GMT (0438 HKT)
Can't wait to book your ticket to Indianapolis and Oakland? The venerable guidebook is right there with you
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 0625 GMT (1425 HKT)
By helicopter, snowmobile and big-wheel truck across some of the world's most volatile landscapes.
December 9, 2014 -- Updated 2142 GMT (0542 HKT)
Construction begins on a new Singapore airport complex that could make delays and layovers a pleasure.
December 9, 2014 -- Updated 1441 GMT (2241 HKT)
Inflight chatterboxes are annoying but they're not the worst violators of onboard etiquette, according to an Expedia study.
December 8, 2014 -- Updated 2232 GMT (0632 HKT)
These statues are awe-inspiring even for the strongest of non-believers.
December 5, 2014 -- Updated 1659 GMT (0059 HKT)
The Palace of the Parliament, built by former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.
25 years after the death of Romania's communist dictator, tourism is helping heal old wounds.
December 5, 2014 -- Updated 1152 GMT (1952 HKT)
Photo sharing website names the top 10 destinations for geo-tagged snapshots.
December 3, 2014 -- Updated 1005 GMT (1805 HKT)
New York may be a paradise of Zagat-rated, Michelin-starred restaurants, but some of its best food can be found on the streets.
December 2, 2014 -- Updated 0601 GMT (1401 HKT)
Guide Lebo behind the wheel of Chobe Game Lodge's first electric game viewing vehicle, at Chobe National Park in Botswana.
Chobe Game Lodge in Botswana ups the eco stakes with what it claims is world's first battery-powered safari fleet.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0118 GMT (0918 HKT)
The interior of the Formosa Boulevard Mass Rapid Transit Station in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan.
These quirky and beautiful subway stops make standing cheek-to-cheek with 45 strangers almost seem fun.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1314 GMT (2114 HKT)
A scene from a desert safari in Dubai
Luxury vintage Land Rover tours explore Bedouin backwaters without bashing up precious dunes.
ADVERTISEMENT