E-Clear: Travel industry fraud group calls for action

The Prevention of Fraud in Travel Group (PROFiT) is putting pressure on the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to decide whether to launch an investigation into controversial credit card processing firm E-Clear.

The SFO has said it is “very interested” in the activities of E-Clear, which was put into administration by the courts last month, but has not started a formal investigation.

The firm was accused of causing the collapse of Scottish operator Globespan, owner of the Flyglobespan airline, after it allegedly withheld £35 million of the
group’s money

PROFiT chairman Barry Gooch, who has written to the independent government department asking for a decision, urged the rest of the industry to back the request.

Gooch said: “We are very concerned that a decision has not been made on this.

“There is interest from the trade press and the national newspapers and this is damaging the travel industry at a time when there is a lot of uncertainty among customers.

“While the SFO has expressed interest no one else is able to investigate, so the process is being held up. There is a problem with how this segment of the market is regulated, and the police are concerned that there may be other E-Clears out there. It needs someone to investigate.”  

The SFO aims to make a decision within 20 working days of a suspected criminal offence being brought to its attention. However, in a response to Gooch, head of intelligence Andy Morling said there were “external factors” that might hold up its enquiries.

An SFO spokeswoman said: “Because of the seriousness of the matter, we continue to be offered new intelligence that requires consideration.”

Since E-Clear was placed in administration, several businessmen have claimed they were owed money by its boss Elias Elia, including City broker Derek Tullett.

Police in Cyprus confirmed shots were fired at Elia’s parents’ home in Nicosia, Cyprus in February 2009, in a gangland-style “warning” over unpaid debts.

Administrators BDO are still hunting for the missing cash.

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