A key part the Travel Weekly Stamp out Fraud campaign has been raising awareness of crime and its effects on the victims – travel businesses and customers.
This week travel agencies have been thrust into the headlines with the news of a huge money laundering operation in Bradford, Birmingham and Halifax, which has seen 11 people convicted. The sums of money involved are out of this world, with more than £500 million of cash being laundered.
The deceit was on a huge scale. Criminal gangs were involved, laundering funds from smuggling and drugs-related activities, and clearly this was a well organised operation.
What this case proves is financial crime on the grandest scale can go on undetected within the travel trade. What’s astonishing is that on the surface no one would be any the wiser that this criminal activity was taking place. Those involved ran regular looking high-street agencies and their websites looked very professional.
Everyone in the trade has a duty to be vigilant and to speak up if anything looks even slightly untoward. Without the eyes and ears of travel professionals to help the authorities, fraud will continue to be perpetrated, casting a shadow over the industry.
A concerted effort by HM Revenue and Customs has proved successful in this case, but the fact remains that gangs will go to extreme lengths to cover their tracks.
The Travel Weekly Stamp out Fraud campaign has become more relevant than ever and it is incumbent on all those in the travel industry to play their part in beating the villains. When we kicked off the campaign we suggested fraud perpetrated by companies costs the industry £6 million a year. Clearly, that figure is just the tip of the iceberg.
- Discussion: Fraud in the travel industry on the Travel Weekly forum
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