The employees, aged 21 to 34, were charged with fraud and taken into police custody. Four admitted to selling fake tickets and were indicted on 11 October. A fifth man, the suspected ringleader, has denied responsibility and remains in jail.
The fraudsters offered cash-paying visitors either re-used tickets or counterfeit tickets for around €10 (£9) each. Real tickets to the main palace are priced at €15 (£14) while admission to the palace, grounds, Trianon palaces and Marie-Antoinette’s Estate cost between €18-€25 (£16-£23).
Tellers involved in the operation sold visitors the fake tickets before their accomplices admitted them at the entry checkpoint to the palace. Suspicions were raised when other workers at the site noticed that the fake tickets were not being passed through the machines at checkpoint. This prompted a member of management to notify the police.
Scalpers selling forged tickets have long been the bane of rock concerts and sports events with museums remaining relatively unscathed. The Versailles operation and the sale of fake tickets to the Victoria and Albert Museum’s blockbuster David Bowie show in 2013 suggests the arts and heritage sector may no longer be immune.
The counterfeit ring is thought to have caused up to €250,000 (£226,000) in damages to the former royal palace since August this year. This figure could grow as police deepen their investigations into ticket sales made throughout 2016.