by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor
Artnet.com's headline yesterday: "€500 Million Ponzi Scheme Suspected at Paris Museum pointed to an "exclusive" article in LePoint.fr reported by Mélanie DeLattre, Christophe Labbé, and Laure Rougevin-Baville: "Descente de police au musée de Lettres et Manuscrits" (originally published Nov. 18 and updated Nov. 20):
The cosily niche books and manuscripts market may be about to be hit by one its biggest scandals in recent years. And Paris's Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits, as well as its sister organization the Institut des Lettres et Manuscrits, is in the eye of the storm.
Le Point reported that on November 18, France's anti-fraud brigade raided the museum and the various branches of Aristophil, a company owned by the museum's founder, Gérard Lhéritier.
The company is suspected by the tax authorities and Tracfin—a public body fighting money laundering and terrorism financing—of “deceptive marketing practices," and “gang fraud." At time of writing, the Aristophil website as well as the websites for the museum and the institute appear to have been taken offline.
The Musée de Lettres et Manuscrits is a small building located at 222 Boulevard Saint-Germain (near Rue du Bac) in the 7th arrondisemont. I have often passed it walking from Cafe de Flore to Musée d'Orsay but in the last 20 years the closest I have come to entering the museum was to grab a pamphlet last January. The entrance itself is off of the street so I always thought the institution was a bit exclusive although according to the brochure, for less than 10 euros you could visit the collection from 10h - 19h every day with the exception of Mondays and three national holidays (Christmas, New Year's Day, and the first of May).