The director of Aarya Travels Limited, a Hajj travel firm in Southall, has been hit with 150 hours of unpaid work and a £500 fine for fraud and consumer protection offences following a successful prosecution by Ealing Council.
Mr Samir Serat Saboor, 31, has been convicted of two counts of fraud and further offences which includes displaying a false ATOL logo in the shop window which meant that his customers were not financially protected for their flights. Furthermore, Mr Saboor was found to be guilty of not protecting the money handed over to him in the event of insolvency and not providing an itinerary in good time before the journey.
The council’s trading standards team brought the prosecution following a complaint by two vulnerable victims, a pilgrim and his elderly mother, who thought they had purchased a once in a lifetime Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and Madina in 2015.
Mr Saboor promised to book the accommodation and travel arrangements and obtain the necessary Hajj visas to enter Saudi Arabia on behalf of the complainants. In return, they made a part payment of £4,500 in cash. On their return, they noticed the essential visas were not stamped into their passports. Mr Saboor had initially promised to refund their deposit but then changed his mind and tried to pin the blame on the complainants for being late.
Director of safer communities and housing, Mark Wiltshire said: “This is a positive result that sends a clear message that we will continue to investigate and prosecute rogue traders exploiting vulnerable victims. In this case, the defendant set out to deliberately exploit people undertaking a once in a lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca. We want pilgrims to know that we take their concerns seriously, understand their problems and will work with our partners to tackle this area of criminality. This is an area that is under reported and is known to have a real and devastating effect on victims, and undermines the many legitimate business who work to deliver services for residents and business in our borough”
Notes to editors:
Anyone who has concerns about Hajj travel packages or thinks they may have been a victim of Hajj fraud can contact:
- Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06 or visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer
- Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or visit www.actionfraud.police.uk
How to protect yourself and your loved ones from Hajj fraudsters
If you are booking a flight-based package make sure your travel company is ATOL (Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing) protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
A legitimate ATOL logo will have a four or five digit number and can be checked online at: www.caa.co.uk/checkanatol
ATOL protection is the Government backed financial protection scheme and means if your travel company collapses while you are in Saudi Arabia, you will be repatriated at no further cost. The CAA will also do everything possible to ensure you can finish and enjoy your holiday without disruption.