Partially-completed housing developments in Cyprus could be at the centre of the investigation into the missing £100 million credit card processing firm E-Clear owes travel clients.
With the Mayfair-based firm now in administration following a High Court hearing last Tuesday, accountancy firm BDO is working to find the money owed to creditors.
E-Clear’s ownership of NordFinanz Bank is also thought to be under investigation. The deal came as commercial agreements between E-Clear and Pago, a merchant acquirer half-owned by Deutsche Bank, were ending in 2008.
E-Clear chief executive Elias Elia is understood to have a 50% stake in Elian Developments, a property firm in his native Cyprus, according to sources.
Pictures of partially completed Elian properties featured in the Sunday Times, as well as reports that the company had been a sponsor of Cypriot first division football team Enosis Neon Paralimni.
E-Clear administrator BDO is believed to be moving to freeze Elia’s assets.
The Serious Fraud Office in the UK is also talking with BDO and PricewaterhouseCoopers, the administrator of major E-Clear creditor Globespan, ahead of launching a formal investigation.
With virtually no money in the E-Clear accounts, BDO will meet with creditors this week to see if they will fund an investigation; the UK or Scottish governments could also be asked to pay.
Any investigation is likely to centre on Cyprus where E-Clear was first founded, about 2000.
The firm was established with sole investor George Palaondas and Elia, said by sources to have been “penniless” before E-Clear was established, ran the UK arm based in Mayfair.
Travel Weekly understands Palaondas was soon pushed aside by Elia leaving him as the sole director of E-Clear.
The latest available company accounts show two directors: E-Clear Global Ltd, holding 499,999 of the 5000,000 ordinary shares, and Elia holding one share, both at the same address in Nicosia, Cyprus.
Travel Weekly has been unable to contact Elia, but it is thought he is claiming the money E-Clear owed is in accounts controlled by Pago.
He feels reports about missing millions misunderstand his business model, claiming that E-Clear never has access to that sort of money.
Elia was in the UK at the end of last week talking to his lawyers and to the administrators, a former spokesman for the firm confirmed.