A fake accountant helped a family of scammers earn £270,000 from a fake travel agency

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A North London man who used a travel agency to make fraudulent claims about a bogus holiday has been handed a suspended sentence. Abdul Patel, 59, from Edmonton, is posing as a customer of Star and Key Travel, a company set up for fraud purposes, and trying to claim money from a ‘cancelled’ vacation.

Following a trial in December, he was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud and appeared at Southwark Crown Court yesterday (Wednesday February 2) to be sentenced. He was the last of 13 people to be convicted for their role in the plot, following three linked trials.

Jurors had heard that Patel claimed to have booked a Mauritius holiday package through a travel agency he knew did not exist called Star and Key Travel. The supposed vacation was supposed to take place between July and August 2014, but the company went bankrupt in June. He provided records of the transactions to Air Travel Organizers Licensing (ATOL), which appeared to prove he had paid for the holiday in full.

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After the company allegedly went out of business, ATOL, which provides protection for customers of travel agents, came under suspicion after receiving 23 claims totaling £268,766. Their concerns were that a number of these forms had been scribbled over with pen on pencil, the surnames of the clients were all different, the lack of contact details for applicants and the lack of contact once their applications were submitted.

The police quickly launched an investigation and discovered that family members Mariam Bhajun and his sons Roshan and Mohun were the main players in the travel agency. All of Mauritian origin, they had encouraged their friends and family to participate in the scheme and pose as their clients.

During this time, Patel was their accountant and had aided the fraudsters by withdrawing money which would be paid into the ‘client’s’ account. The customer would then transfer the money to the business electronically, leaving proof of a transaction to be submitted with a claim.

This process would then be repeated with other fake customers and create the illusion that 23 expensive vacations had been paid for in full. Once police obtained the company’s bank account details, they were able to trace the vast majority of accounts of people who had submitted fraudulent claims.

For his role in the conspiracy, Patel was given a 16-month suspended prison sentence and must commit 120 hours of unpaid work. The Bhajun family received prison sentences, Roshan and Mohun were imprisoned for five years each, and Mariam received a two-year suspended sentence.



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Holborn Police Station Detective Inspector Richard Ward, who led the investigation, said: ‘This was a complex fraud involving a number of people which was established for the sole purpose of defrauding the Air Travel Trust of large sums of money.

“The painstaking work that has gone into this investigation cannot be done justice with words. But it is fair to say that thanks to the tenacity, dedication and diligence of my team of detectives and with the support of the Civil Aviation Authority, those who set out to commit this fraud have been held accountable.

“In addition to the sentences handed down by the court, forfeiture proceedings have taken place to ensure that there is no benefit to be gained from this crime and that compensation could be paid to the Air Travel Trust for fraudulent claims that had been paid before this matter was dealt with reported to the police.”

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