One learns something every day, even if it’s not always (or even often) anything useful. Today I have learned that in France there seems to be a difference between licit and illicit tourist souvenirs:
French police have seized 20 tonnes of miniature Eiffel Towers as part of a crackdown on the souvenirs which are offered illegally to tourists at visitor hotspots around Paris, security sources told AFP.
The small metal trinkets are sold for as little as five for one euro at places such as the Louvre museum or outside the real Eiffel Tower, usually by African migrants who play a game of cat-and-mouse with police.
A joint investigation involving French immigration authorities led to raids on three Chinese wholesalers who are suspected of importing the towers and supplying a network of vendors in Paris.
More than 1,000 boxes, containing in total 20 tonnes of miniature Eiffel Towers, were seized from two depots and three shops in the Paris region on Monday and Tuesday, a security source told AFP, confirming a report in Le Parisien newspaper.
Nine people have been arrested.
So the legal status of a souvenir depends on who’s selling it, which kind of makes sense, since the authorities clearly want the souvenir retailers to be subject to tax. But how would you be able to prove that the Chinese wholesalers are not going to sell their 20 tonnes of Eiffel Towers to reputable shops? Or do you have to have a government licence to be able to import and on-sell representations of the French cultural heritage? Who knows, but the whole thing smacks of government having too much time on their hands. By all accounts, France has a considerable Islamist problem, with thousands of suspected terrorists and terror sympathisers known to the law enforcement agencies. Maybe all the police resources that go into investigating a mini-Eiffel Tower racket would be better spent making sure that the real Eiffel Tower doesn’t get blown up or its visitors stabbed or shot down? Just a thought.
By the way, if the French police make another 330 busts like that, they will be able to melt all these souvenir Eiffel Towers and construct a real size replica.
P.S. Clearly, this is a long-standing obsession – 60 tonnes of Eiffel Towers seized by the police in 2013.