Page last updated at 19:53 GMT, Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Gang found guilty of holiday scam

Christakis Philippou (left) and Evangela Loigka (right)
Philippou was the mastermind and Loigka oversaw the call centres

A gang who cheated about 12,000 people in a holiday booking scam have been convicted of five counts of conspiracy to defraud by a jury.

Evangela Liogka and Christakis Philippou, both of west London, and Timothy Entwistle, of Dorset, had pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Peter Kemp, of Goffs Oak, Cheshunt, had earlier admitted to the same charges.

The gang set up 26 "front" firms and offered "bargain breaks" only to shut the agencies after bookings were made.

Southwark Crown Court heard the group operated seasonally between July 2003 and August 2006 and earned 7m from just five of their non-existent companies.

Liogka was convicted of four of the charges and cleared on one.

'Illegal immigrants'

The firms operated online and through Teletext and would advertise "cut price and very attractive deals".

The court heard police interviewed 400 witnesses during their 15-month investigation.

Prosecutor Martin Edmunds QC told the court Philippou, 64, of Bark Place, Bayswater, was at the "centre of the action" and was helped by his partner Liogka, 40, from Montpelier Place, Knightsbridge, who was "effectively overseeing" the agencies' call centres.

Peter Kemp (left) and Timothy Entwisle (right)
Kemp managed the firms and Entwisle looked after the finance

Entwistle, 57, from Ludworth in Dorset, who is a trained accountant, handled the financial aspects of the business and helped start the companies.

Kemp, 52, managed the businesses for the gang.

The court has already frozen assets which run into millions and Judge Andrew Goymer warned of further "lengthy" confiscation proceedings.

The court heard among the victims was John Reynolds, the former Lord Provost of Aberdeen and a senior official with the local tourist board who was "twice bitten" losing more than 3,000.

Martin Roxburgh, 50, and his wife, of Portsmouth, landed in Cyprus and were branded "illegal immigrants" when their hotel booking did not show up.

The five companies involved were Ciao Travel Ltd, Onshine Ltd, Grayrise Associates Ltd, Orange Sun Ltd and Sun Orient Ltd.

The money earned through customer bookings by two of these firms allegedly ended up in bank accounts in Cyprus, Greece and Spain, the court heard.

The Association of British Travel Agents, the Civil Aviation Authority and Teletext welcomed the verdicts.

All four fraudsters will be sentenced on 17 April.

Pair face holiday fraud charges
21 Aug 06 |  London

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