Meet Victor Lustig
Who is he?
He just sold the Eiffel Tower- Twice!
The Philadelphia Newspaper tagged him as ‘the smoothest con man ever born!’
How did he do it?
It was in 1925 that Lustig returned to Paris. Here, France was recovering from the damages caused by World War I. While residing in the city, Lustig came across a newspaper article that stated the problems faced in the maintenance of the Eiffel Tower.
In the post World War period, the monument had began to fall into hopelessness as the government was unable to bear the cost of maintenance. The article also referred that there would be a public poll taken for the demolition of the structure.
Lustig immediately saw a profitable prospective for a con.
He started researching on what is needed to make his new scam a successful operation. He started forging necessary government documents and stationery for his activity.
After forging documents, Lustig invited a small group of scrap dealers to a confidential meeting at an expensive hotel and identified himself as Deputy General of the Ministère de Postes et Télégraphes.
Lustig was an excellent communicator! He called all the invitees honest businessmen, and asserted that the Government wanted to sell the parts of the Eiffel Tower for scrap, since it was an extravagance considering the current circumstances in France. However, because such a deal would be controversial and likely spark public outcry, Lustig informed them that the matter had to be kept confidential until all the details were out. To bring a genuine insight, Ludwig announced that the Eiffel Tower didn’t fit with the city’s other great monuments like the Arc de Triomphe.
Among other dealers, was André Poisson. Lustig saw his prospective victim in Poisson, since he was keenly interested in purchasing the monument. Lustig shifted his attention and focused more upon conning Poisson. While conversing with Poisson, Lustig gave him a hint that he was a corrupt officer. Considering that as an advantage, Poisson, who had thought that this deal would secure his position as one of the top businessmen in France, approached Lustig. Poisson agreed to pay a large bribe to secure ownership of the Eiffel Tower. However, once Lustig received this and the funds for the monument’s non-existent sale, he soon fled to Austria.
Perceiving that he was conned, Poisson was ashamed and embarrassed which prevented him from informing the police what he had done. Realising that no French newspaper has reported his crime, Lustig returned to Paris the same year to pull off the same scheme once again!
He brought the second group of dealers and successfully conned another person into buying the Eiffel Tower! However, the police was informed about the scam this time and Lustig was arrested.