Page last updated at 18:26 GMT, Monday, 4 January 2010

FlyGlobespan cash recovery move

Elias Elia
Elias Elia is chief executive of E-Clear which says it is refunding the claims

Accountants chasing creditors of the failed airline FlyGlobespan have taken legal action against the company that was handling online ticket sales.

The BBC understands the move to put E-Clear into administration is intended to force the firm to disclose whether it has £35m withheld from FlyGlobespan.

The administrators' action comes on top of three other legal cases lodged against E-Clear.

Finance Secretary John Swinney welcomed the move.

FlyGlobespan's collapse left thousands of holidaymakers stranded abroad.

E-Clear has also been fighting an action raised by those winding up SkyEurope, a Slovakian airline. It is claimed E-Clear was withholding £13m in ticket sales when that company went under last summer.

Globespan records indicate that some £35m is being held - but no details to support the funds have been provided by E-Clear
Ian Oakley-Smith
FlyGlobespan administrator

The directors of Globespan Travel, which included the FlyGlobespan airline, lodged a legal action last month seeking to wind up E-Clear, in the hours before their company was put into administration.

The Scottish airline's administrators have not withdrawn that action.

It has also been reported that Go Travel Direct, based in Canada, has tabled a legal claim for £300,000 it says it is owed.

A spokesman for E-Clear confirmed the legal challenge has been received, and said: "We're disputing the amount, and refunding the claims.

"And its our view that the money is due back to the credit card holders. Our duty has been to the customer, and it remains that way".

He said the transactions company has asked for proof of the PwC claim that £35m is withheld, £20m of it for past flights, and that it had not had any.

A spokesperson for John Swinney said: "This is a matter for the administrator, but we hope that it will lead to the recovery of the money which was due to Flyglobespan and the thousands of its customers affected by its collapse.

"The fact that the administrator has taken this action suggests a lack of co-operation on the part of E-Clear.

"This is quite intolerable, as many people have lost their jobs or face financial hardship as a consequence of the collapse of Flyglobespan, and there are clear duties that require relevant parties to co-operate with the administrator."

Significant claims

E-Clear is a company that specialises in handling online transactions by credit and debit cards, and it had a niche in the low fare airline business.

However, three of its biggest clients have been grounded in the past 18 months - including Zoom and XL in 2008 and Globespan in December.

Allbury Travel used its transactions, and it ceased trading three days after Globespan. It was owned by a parent company controlled by Elias Elia, who is also chief executive of E-Clear.

Mr Elia has made little public comment on the issue. Last month, he was quoted as saying talks with PricewaterhouseCoopers were going "extremely well".

Since then, he defended the withholding of millions of pounds in a newspaper interview, in which he said E-Clear had to keep back the fees paid for flights for which there could be claims.

This is understood to have included £15m for flights that were due after the administrators were called in.

But the dispute centres on £20m for flights that had already landed.

E-Clear believes there could still be significant claims against that money, but the PwC administrators have challenged this, and have had no explanation why so much money was withheld for past flights.

Move swiftly

In a statement issued on Monday, joint administrator Ian Oakley-Smith said: "In the period since we were appointed administrators of Globespan, we have repeatedly asked E-Clear to confirm the level of funds they hold which have been received from Globespan customers.

"Globespan records indicate that some £35m is being held - but no details to support the funds have been provided by E-Clear.

"Before Christmas, the administrators requested the funds be placed in a joint account and this request has so far been refused."

In an additional development, a leaked letter from the Civil Aviation Authority, dated late September 2009, revealed its concern about Globespan's financial position, warning that it had to move swiftly to raise extra capital.

Its main shareholder, Tom Dalrymple, was in talks with Halcyon, a Jersey-registered investment trust, in which Mr Elia was lead investor, but their plan to inject 15 million euros into Globespan, fell through on the day the airline was called into administration.

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