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Scam 'almost bankrupted the Alhambra' - Rural Granada Villas White villages with backdrop of Sierra Nevada

Legal 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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