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The UK Civil Aviation Authority and the Air Travel Trust have welcomed the conviction of 13 individuals over ATOL travel fraud. A conviction today of Mr Abdul Patel, 59, of Edmonton, London, follows 12 earlier convictions related to Star and Key Travel across two previous trials, making this one of the largest ever cases of travel sector fraud. The individuals used a travel company to make fraudulent ATOL (Air Travel Organiser's Licencing) claims about fictitious holidays they said had been cancelled after the failure of the travel agent.

These individuals were involved in booking 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 UK Civil Aviation Authority and the Air Travel Trust. The ATOL scheme reimburses consumers where a consumer purchases an ATOL protected package holiday from an ATOL holder that subsequently ceases to trade.

Following Star and Key Travel's collapse, a total of 23 claims were submitted. However, 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 Civil Aviation Authority and Air Travel Trust alerted the Metropolitan Police, who helped to identify the fraudulent activity.

Following investigations, it became clear that 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.

Commenting, Paul Smith, Director at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, 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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