Paris police seize 60 tonnes of mini Eiffel Towers
Authorities target black market vendors who sell bootleg souvenirs
The Eiffel Tower illuminated during the traditional Bastille Day fireworks display in Paris last week. The city is visited by about 29 million tourists a year. Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters
Police in Paris have seized 60 tonnes of miniature Eiffel Towers that black-market vendors were hoping to sell to tourists.
Paris is one of the world’s top destinations, visited by about 29 million tourists a year, but with the holidaymakers comes an influx of bootleg souvenirs, from replica towers to fake Hermes scarves.
Police play a cat and mouse game with the sellers who flood the top tourist sites, taking business from the authorised vendors and paying no taxes.
Police said the tin trinkets, brightly coloured and barely 8cm high, were seized on Tuesday from a warehouse near Le Bourget airport north of Paris. A woman of Chinese nationality was in police custody.
Authorities say Chinese gangs, many based in the east of Paris, import the trinkets from China before selling them to other groups who control the sellers.
Up to 300-400 black-market sellers hawk their wares around the Eiffel Tower at the height of the summer season, say police, who circulate flyers to tourists encouraging them not to buy from street sellers.
Police said in a statement they had also raided an office in Paris’ Marais district where some 100 black-market sellers per day would buy replica Eiffel Towers to sell on, seizing thousands more models and over €150,000 in cash.
When sellers are caught, their goods confiscated but they are released because most are unable to pay a maximum fine of €3,750 ($5,000). Few are sent back to their home country - a bureaucratic process plagued by delays, authorities say.