About 41,000 Parisians guilty of simple traffic violations were mailed legal notices accusing them of crimes such as manslaughter and procuring prostitutes, an official said Wednesday.
A city treasury official said his department was alerted Monday when switchboards were jammed with thousands of calls from worried Parisians, who were described as serious criminal offenders in notices to pay fines.Due to an error in the complex system for coding infractions, the treasury department had sent the stunned Parisian drivers notices charging them with major criminal offenses.
In an absurd twist to the mix-up, some of the official notices ordered accused murderers simply to pay fines of about $230.
A man who had made an illegal U-turn on the Champs-Elysees was ordered to pay a $230 fine for using family ties to procure prostitutes and "manslaughter by a ship captain and leaving the scene of a crime."
Michel Strecker, chief of the regional public treasury, was barely able to contain his laughter while explaining that "a grain of sand" had somehow jammed the administrative chain that processes the fines.
"The majority of the people took it with a smile, even if it was a bitter smile," said Strecker. None have threatened to take legal action against the department, he said.
One man told the satirical weekly newspaper "Le Canard Enchaine" that his wife has been giving him dirty looks since he received a bogus notice accusing him of procuring prostitutes.
Strecker blamed human error by computer operators for the incident, which he described as unprecedented in scale. He said there will be an investigation.
In the meantime, 41,000 Parisian traffic violators are receiving letters of apology this week along with corrections of the offense and orders to pay their fines promptly.