Pensioners run up €170k chalet bill, then run off

It’s one thing doing a runner from a restaurant without paying the bill, but it’s a different matter running up a €170,000 bill over two months at a luxury ski chalet in the Swiss Alps and then disappearing as three pensioners from the French Riviera have done.

Pensioners run up €170k chalet bill, then run off
Three pensioners from the French Riviera are on the run after runnign up €170k bill at a luxury Swiss Chalet. Photo: Triumph Mountain Properties/Flickr

Could you do with two months in a luxury chalet in the Swiss Alps? Health treatments, massages, vintage champagne, silk sheets and a limousine service?

That’s the lifestyle three pensioners from the French Riviera enjoyed for two months in luxury Swiss chalet.

The three retired rogues from the Côte d’Azur lived like kings for 60 days and left behind a hefty bill of €170 000 after their two month stay in a 5 star, €12,000-a-week chalet in the Swiss mountain resort Crans-Montana.

But when it came to settling up they didn’t hand over a penny and instead signed an “acknowledgement of debt" to the owner.

Then they went on the run.

"The real identity of these people is entirely unknown, just like all the crooks in the world" Patrick Bérod, director of hoteliers in the region, told The Local.

“They are no longer in Switzerland and are probably in France or hopping between other destinations worldwide,” he said.

“It will be very difficult for the hotel to get even a centime of its money back, and it has probably already written it off.”

Berod said the sum of the swindle was a record, before admitting that con men regularly pull these kind of tricks, if not for quite as much as €170,000

Often the con artists take good care to cover their tricks and present a false image in order to deceive the luxury establishments.

“They arrive in helicopters they haven’t paid for elsewhere, or in swanky cars – Rolls-Royces or Ferraris with a hired chauffeur at the wheel” the director of Crans-Montana explained. 

The three retired fugitives weren’t stingy on the extras, treating themselves to all that was on offer. “It was things like confectionary with vintage champagne, health treatments,  massages, silk sheets and the limousine service” a representative from the tourist office explained.

They have already been sentenced by a Swiss court to swindling, but remain on the run.

Swiss police have not ruled out asking their French counterparts to help in tracking down the three fugitives.

by Isy Orange

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Tourism minister: Book your French ski holiday now

France’s ski resorts will be open for business this winter, tourism minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne has promised - but no decision has yet been taken on whether a health pass will be required to use ski lifts.

Skiers at a French Alpine resort
Photo: Philippe Desmazes / AFP

“This winter, it’s open, the resorts are open,” Lemoyne told France 2’s 4 Vérités programme.

“Compared to last year, we have the vaccine,” he said, adding that he would “invite those who have not yet done so to [book], because … there will soon be no more room.”

And he promised an answer ‘in the next few days’ to the question of whether health passes would be required for winter holidaymakers to use ski lifts. “Discussions are underway with the professionals,” he said.

The stakes are high: the closure of ski lifts last winter cost manufacturers and ski shops nearly a billion euros. 

This year ski lifts will remain open, but a health pass may be necessary to access them. The health pass is already compulsory for après ski activities such as visits to bars, cafés and restaurants.

COMPARE The Covid rules in place at ski resorts around Europe

Many town halls and communities which depend on winter sports have found it difficult or impossible to make ends meet.

“It’s time for the French mountains to revive,” Lemoyne said, pointing to the fact that the government has provided “more than €6 billion” in aid to the sector.

Winter tourism professionals, however, have said that they are struggling to recruit for the winter season.

“Restaurant and bars are very affected,” by the recruitment crisis, one expert told Franceinfo, blaming a lack of urgency from authorities towards the winter holiday industry.

“We are all asking ourselves what we should do tomorrow to find full employment in the resort,” the expert added.

Post-Brexit visa and work permit rules mean that ski businesses have found it difficult to recruit Brits for short-term, seasonal positions.