Thirteen people convicted in one of largest cases of travel sector fraud

By Lisa James
Home » Thirteen people convicted in one of largest cases of travel sector fraud

The Civil Aviation Authority has warned it ‘won’t hesitate’ to call in the police if it suspects fraudulent ATOL claims.

The warning came after a conviction today of a 59-year-old London man, Abdul Patel, who joins 12 others already convicted in a major travel fraud case in which family and friends were encouraged to pose as ‘customers’ of a travel business which then ‘failed’, leading the fake customers to claim through the ATOL scheme.

All 13 convictions related to a travel agency, called Star and Key Travel, across two previous trials, making this one of the largest ever cases of travel sector fraud.

The individuals used the travel company to make fraudulent ATOL claims about fictitious holidays they said had been cancelled after the failure of the travel agency.

The fraudsters booked fictitious package holidays to Mauritius through Star and Key Travel. The holidays were supposed to take place between July and August 2014, but the company went bust in June 2014. 

After the company ceased trading, claims for reimbursement for the cancelled holidays were submitted through the ATOL scheme, administered by the CAA and the Air Travel Trust.

Following Star and Key Travel’s collapse, a total of 23 claims were submitted.

Upon investigation, a number of suspicions were raised with inconsistencies in claim forms, as well as amendments such as forms being overwritten in pen on top of pencil.

Following these suspicions, the CAA and ATT alerted the Metropolitan Police who investigated and found Star and Key Travel had been created with the express purpose of committing fraud.

The company was created by family members of Mariam Bhajun and her sons Roshan and Mohun. The Bhajuns encouraged friends and family to pose as ‘customers’ of the business.

In total, 13 individuals have now been convicted related to Star and Key Travel following three separate trials.

Of the previous 12 convictions, two received five-year sentences, the rest received suspended sentences and two were issued with confiscation orders totalling £324,483, of which £48,566 went to the Air Travel Trust.

CAA Director Paul Smith said: “We welcome today’s conviction, along with the 12 others previously convicted regarding fraudulent ATOL claims against Star and Key Travel.

“These convictions are the result of hard work, dedication and collaboration between the Metropolitan Police and the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

“The ATOL scheme is in place to support consumers who have seen legitimate holidays cancelled when their travel business has ceased to operate.

“It is funded by payments made into the scheme when individuals buy ATOL protected holidays, so fraud such as this affects everyone who is booking package holidays. “We constantly review and enhance our checks and processes to identify fraudulent behaviour and will not hesitate to take any necessary action against anyone found to be making fraudulent claims against the ATOL scheme.”

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