Scam ‘almost bankrupted the Alhambra’

LAST UPDATED: 31 Mar, 2009 @ 07:17
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Scam ‘almost bankrupted the Alhambra’

AlhambraLegal investigation uncovers eight-million-euro fraud at Spain’s biggest tourist attraction


AN alleged ticket scam involving travel agencies, tour guides and a branch of a major bank almost forced the closure of Spain’s most-visited tourist attraction.

A three-year judicial investigation claims that up to 50 people are implicated in the suspected eight-million euro fraud, which involved 800,000 fake tickets given out to visitors to the Islamic Alhambra palace in Granada.

According to the investigators, at least 51,000 tickets were illegally resold up to 15 times each between 2002 and 2005 and that entrance staff, Alhambra managers and cashiers from the BBVA bank in Las Gabias, Granada, were in on the scam.

The inquiry suggested that seven million euros gained from the fraud went to staff at the Alhambra, with most of the rest pocketed by representatives from the Daraxatour and Washington Irving travel companies. The report – which was ordered by a Granada court in 2006 – alleges that bank staff sold up to 70 tickets to a single buyer. The most tickets that can be bought at any one time is five.

The scam also resulted in thousands of visitors – all of whom who had legitimate tickets – being denied access to the Alhambra, which has a daily limit on the amount of people allowed in. The investigation claims that poor management by the company that runs the fortess – el Patronato de Alhambra – allowed the fraud to go un-noticed for so long.

Alarmingly, the legal report concludes that the three-year scam almost bankrupted the tourist attraction.

Employees of el Patronato de Alhambra who are implicated in the scam have attacked the report, claiming it is “erroneous.”

“The investigation accuses ticket sellers of fraud without any proof,” said one of the accused.

Meanwhile, the Alhambra has maintained its position as Spain’s number one tourist attraction in 2008.

According to figures released by the monument’s management company, 3.1 million people bought tickets for the 13th century palace and fortress complex last year.

The second most visited tourist attraction was the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona, followed by the Prado Museum in Madrid.

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10 COMMENTS

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  1. Not at all suprising. Its typical of Spain in general that these things happen and just the number of people implicated in the famous “Operacion Malaya” goes to show how widespread coruption is.

    Don´t get me wrong, I love Spain, but this is something that can leave a bitter aftertaste. I can remeber visiting friends in Santa Fe (its just outside Granada) and we couldn´t get tickets for that weekend for “love nor money”. Until of course we spoke to a friend of a friend who “knew someone” and suddenly we all had tickets for free.

  2. Fred,
    it is’nt just these days, they have always been corrupt. Take the whole of Central and South America – they have never been anything else other than corrupt.

    Take two degenerate peoples like the Spanish and the Italians put them together in a country that was in the 1950s’ the fifth richest country on earth – Argentina. If they had’nt been corrupt it would have been the third richest – of course that would’nt include the native peoples as they have always been treated like scum, less than dogs and you know how most of the Spanish treat dogs.

  3. Interesting comment about Argentina Stuart.

    All the big Argentine companies in the 1950s, like Fray Bentos/Oxo (Liebigs/Vesteys), Bovril (those poor Lawson Johnsons), La Forestal (my grandfather worked for them), BSAA, most of the Frigoríficos, many of the shipping companies, were pretty much all foreign and most of them British. Don’t forget that most of the railway companies nicked by Perón just before the 50s were also financed, built, owned and operated by the British.

  4. Lets face it, the Alhambra is very overated. I was there in 2007 and could not belive the queues and masses of people. That is not what call appreciating and enjoying your holiday.

    Go to the north of Spain and you can see stunning hostoric sites, many are 0.60 cents and you have it to yourself.

    Get off the horrible tourist trails and see the ‘real’ Spain.

  5. Since when was the Alhambra not part of “real” spain?! The queues were so long because of the corruption no doubt – ie. selling one person 70 tickets insted of maximum of say 4. Visit Alhambra in the spring, not summer.

  6. Acvtually the fraud has cost the alhambra nothing. The only ones to suffer were the real tourists who found the alhambra full when it should have been empty. The system is designed to allow 8500 people a day intio the monument in half hour lots. All the fraudster did was generate 800,000 extra tickets and supply them to travel agents and guides under the table. This is just a case of the Patronato being annoyed because somebody else made a fortune on their backs- the simple fat is that 600 people extra got in which nobody noticed. They would never have diuscovered the problem if one of the gang had not blown the whistle on the whole thing. On the other hand I take groups to the alhambra, have to book a group ticket for 30 people three months ahead, and can get no refund if there are less people in the group. So I invite people waiting for tickets to come in free.

  7. I´m now living in this country for 25 years and since April 2008 in Granada. What I found out so far is that nowhere in Spain you get ripped off better than in Granada. It´s a miserable, selfish society with no common sense at all, provincial and not a bit European with an unbelievable low level of general education. Nobody trusts anybody and everybody’s daily aim is: Whom do I rip off today and how.

    As these people aren´t as used to daily life with foreigners as they are on the coasts or big cities you actually sense the constant presence of racism or even get approached with aggression, as the glorious machismo seems to be the last remaining art work in Granada. Tourists been shipped up from the coasts, rush through the monuments and taken back by sunset, leaving us defenseless with the indigenous.

    It´s actually a pity because the city itself, the monuments and the landscapes are fantastic and it seems strange that such beautiful environment breeds such evil and grumpy people.

    I can´t wait to get out of here.

  8. I cannot understand the one sided lean in this matter!
    Of course there has never been a scam of some sort or another back in Dear Old Blighty!
    So when tourists visit London (and other UK cities) and get “ripped off” by taxi drivers, shopkeepers, ticket touts etc etc that is alright? All those reports of scams by Brits on Brits in the UK papers every day are lies?

    Granada is still a very parochial city, just like the white villages. Only the young who have been to university have other language skills, many with 5 or more. The older and “grumpier” only have their native Spanish – like many of those who live in London, Leeds or Whitchurch only have native English despite the best of intentions of the British schooling system. But then this is the “real” Spain not the Little Britain of Malaga.
    I visited most continents in the Royal Navy and always found it useful to be able to say “yes” “please” “no” “thank you” “2 beers” in the local language.
    Spain has “dialects” in the same was as the UK has “Glaswegians” “Geordies” “Taffies” etc which has an effect on the words you may have learnt in Barcelona when trying to talk in Grananda.

    Earlier this year I met an American couple looking for the Tourist Office in the Plaza Mariana Pineda, they had just “done the Alhambra in an hour” and were looking to get the rest of Granada “done” in the next couple of hours before going to another country!!!
    A work colleague spending 10days in Malaga had allocated a day in Granada and was most unimpressed when I said he should get a hotel and stay 3 days min. He didn’t even know it was an hour there (and an hour back) by car.

    Orlando, if you don’t like being in Granada please pass on your job to me – I would dearly love to live there. I have found them polite, helpful and considerate of a Brit hablo espanol poco.

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