A Museum Cashier at Fondation Beyeler Is Being Charged With Embezzling More Than $1 Million

The suspect had been spending lavishly on expensive clothes, travel, and cars.

The Beyeler Foundation in Riehen, Switzerland. Courtesy of the Foundation.

A woman who worked at the front desk at the Fondation Beyeler in Basel, Switzerland for over a decade is being charged with the embezzlement of nearly 1 million Swiss francs ($1.15 million). The unnamed 54-year-old woman is currently being tried before a criminal court in Basel, where it has been alleged that she diverted cash from ticket sales.

Her colleagues first became suspicious in 2019, according to Spiegel. One found that tickets she had sold would later falsely show up as canceled on the box office system. The handwriting apparently matched that of the accused woman. They also claim that she would sell the same ticket twice by telling visitors that the ticket could not be printed due to a technical glitch. She would give them a receipt to show the entrance guard, and then sell the real ticket to a second customer.

According to Badisches Zeitung, a former cashier testified that in 2019 he had discovered cancellations of ticket sales under his name that were not his. A former supervisor said there had also been emergency tickets issued—this occurred between 20 to 40 times per day in 2019 during a popular Picasso exhibition.

The woman, who is not directly employed by the museum but by the service provider ISS Facility Services AG, had been working as a cashier at the museum from 2008 to 2019, and was a manager from 2010. The reports allege she pocketed 986,126 Swiss francs ($1.1 million). After an initial internal check carried out by the museum raised alarm bells, the service provider investigated and found evidence of wrongdoing.

Prosecutors later found that large sums of cash had been deposited into her bank account and saw significant spending on expensive clothes, travel, and cars. She allegedly purchased four cars, though she holds no drivers license, according to Badisches Zeitung.

The woman has been at court since Wednesday, and after a three-day hearing, a verdict is expected Friday. The public prosecution is asking a prison sentence of three and a half years. The Fondation Beyeler is being compensated by ISS for the damages incurred.

The Fondation Beyeler is in on the outskirts of Basel, and it is one of Switzerland’s most visited art museums. It is currently staging an exhibition of works by Jean-Michel Basquiat.

“We welcome that the trial has now started,” the foundation said in a statement to Artnet News. “We have fully supported the investigations of the authorities throughout. Now it is up to the court to reach a verdict.”

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