An accountant accused of helping con holidaymakers out of millions of pounds branded the claims against him “absolute rubbish”on Friday.
Timothy Entwisle allegedly ran a string of travel companies with Christakis Philippou, 64, and his partner Evangelia Liogka, 40, selling holidays via teletext and the internet.
But the trio fleeced thousands of customers out of millions of pounds in a three month sting, Southwark Crown Court heard. Some of the hapless holidaymakers only realised they had been conned when they telephoned airlines following the terrorist scare in August 2006, jurors heard.
John Reynolds, Lord Provost of Aberdeen, was unfortunate enough to be duped two years running – losing more than £3,000.
Entwisle is accused of providing his ‘financial expertise’ to help develop the scam. He drafted in an ‘old friend’ to pose as their accountant and attend a meeting on their behalf, it is claimed.
But Entwisle told the court he had only hired his friend, referred to only as Mr McIntosh, because he was not a ‘competent’ to do the job himself. He said: “He was an old friend of mine. I recruited him because I ceased to do any meaningful accounting years ago and at the time I was involved in many other things to put my mind around this. I hadn’t done any work like this for 15 years. I am not actually competent at computer accounting and I believed he was.”
Jurors heard the fraudsters sought out flagging travel companies such as Ciao Travel, a specialist in Italian trips based in London’s Bond Street.They then paid a man called ‘Mr Rajendra’ to act as a front man claiming to be interested in buying the business before they moved in.
In its short history of trading under the new owners, Ciao Travel’s records showed 2,035 credit card transactions were made totalling £1.4million. Mr Rajendra resigned in June 2004, two months before the company folded.
But the accounts showed Mr Rajendra’s name was still being used to authorise payments and bank transactions. Asked if he made arrangements with the bank under the ‘front man’s’ name, Entwisle replied: “No, that is absolute rubbish.”
Entwisle was bankrupt at the time of the alleged offences so was banned from setting up companies, the court heard. But it is claimed he used fake names and was “certainly involved” in some of the companies.
Philippou and Liogka, both of Montpelier Place, Chelsea and Entwisle, of Main Street, Lulworth, Dorset, all deny five charges of conspiring to defraud customers of a travel business that they took over dishonestly. A fourth defendant, Peter Kemp, has already pleaded guilty to the charges. The trial continues.