Four people are accused of making millions of pounds by setting up bogus travel agencies, Southwark Crown Court heard yesterday.
Evangelia Liogka of Montpelier Place, Knightsbridge, Christakis Philippou of Bark Place, Bayswater and Timothy Entwisle of Ludworth in Dorset denied five counts of conspiracy to defraud.
Peter Kemp, who managed the day-to-day running of the businesses, has pleaded guilty to the same charges.
Prosecutors said the group set up five travel agencies in London where they sold large volumes of discounted holidays before collapsing the businesses.
Thousands of customers lost out on holidays which were never booked by the agencies, the court heard. Most were compensated by ABTA, the CAA or their credit card companies.
The agencies said to be involved are Ciao Travel Ltd trading as Sun, Onshine Ltd trading as Sunsplash, Grayrise Associates Ltd trading as Elite Travel, Orange Sun Ltd trading as holidays4under200pounds.com and unbeatableholidays.com and Sun Orient Ltd trading as sunmedresorts.com.
The group went into business with the owner of long-established Italy specialist Ciao Travel Ltd in New Bond Street, London in 2003. ABTA was left to provide refunds for 500 customers totalling nearly £500,000 when it found the premises deserted a year later.
Prosecutor Martin Edmunds QC said the agencies operated seasonally between July 2003 and August 2005 and offered “cut price and attractive deals”. He said: “These businesses took millions of pounds and left thousands of disappointed customers.”
Money from holiday sales is alleged to have been distributed among banks in the UK, Greece and Spain.
A spokesman for Teletext, with whom the defendants advertised, said: “Teletext has worked extremely closely with the Metropolitan Police, ABTA, and the Civil Aviation Authority and has been instrumental in bringing this case to court. We have assisted the police by providing both manpower and funding in order to gather evidence in support of this case.
“Due to the huge steps Teletext has taken internally over recent years, there has been no fraudulent activity on its service since 2005.”
The trial is expected to continue for eight weeks.