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Switzerland Sentences Museum’s Klepto Cashier

August 9, 2023
A brick building with a covered patio surrounded by a manicured lawn.

The Fondation Beyeler (photo courtesy of Louis-Fabrice Jean)

A cashier at one of Switzerland’s most popular museums has been sent to jail for stealing over $1 million from her place of employment. The unnamed 54-year-old woman used to work the front desk at the Fondation Beyeler in Riehen, Switzerland. The museum is about a 20-minute drive from Basel and less than a mile from the border with Germany. The museum mainly houses the collection of Ernst and Hildy Beyeler, some of the greatest art dealers in twentieth-century Europe. The foundation’s collection includes various works, from Cézanne and Van Gogh to Gerhard Richter and Louise Bourgeois. The Beyeler also features indigenous artifacts and sculptures from sub-Saharan Africa and the Pacific.

Charged with embezzlement, fraud, and money laundering, the cashier’s colleagues alleged that, for nearly a decade, she had skimmed the money from museum ticket sales. Suspicions arose in 2019 when others discovered she would sell tickets to visitors and then cancel the transaction, pocketing the money. This was one of several ways the cashier would divert money from ticket sales. Other methods included issuing emergency tickets and selling multiple tickets to the same visitor. She also used other employees’ logins to sell these tickets in an attempt to hide her actions. Internal investigations detail that she had pocketed at least 986,126 Swiss francs, or about $1.1 million, over eleven years. This means she stole the proceeds from about 40,000 tickets while she worked the front desk. Prosecutors uncovered large sums of money in her bank account, accompanied by large purchases. Though she has no driver’s license, she bought four cars with the stolen money. She also purchased expensive clothes, went on vacation, and did a little gambling as well. Last Friday, she was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison, and repay all the money she stole along with a fine of 10,000 francs (or $11,400).

This story comes less than a year after the Art Institute of Chicago’s former payroll manager was arrested for stealing several million dollars.