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The Court of Appeal heard yesterday that former XL Leisure boss Phil Wyatt and his business associates were victims of a “fallacy in the approach” of Goldtrail liquidator PwC when found liable for a £1.4 million claim in 2014.

Wyatt, Magnus Stephensen, Halldor Sigurdarson and Wyatt’s investment vehicle Black Pearl Investments were found liable for the claim resulting from the failure of Goldtrail Travel.

The High Court decided they had given “dishonest assistance” to Goldtrail owner Abdulkadir Aydin, who fled the country after Goldtrail went into administration owing £33 million in 2010.

The defendants appealed on 12 grounds, two of which were dismissed ahead of the appeal hearing.

Only Wyatt of the three defendants was in court to hear the appeal.

QC David Eaton Turner, acting for Wyatt and his co-defendants, argued: “There is a fallacy in the approach of the liquidator.”

Describing the defendants as “experienced men in the travel industry”, he said: “The judge made a number of highly adverse findings against my clients.”

Eaton Turner argued the High Court judge’s view had been “fed by the liquidator’s case which led up hill and down dale”, and said: “I challenge the judges’ findings on the facts.”

He described an agreement to pay flight deposits to Aydin as “window dressing” and “a distinct back of the envelope job” and said the defendants accepted they had entered into “a sham scheme” with the Goldtrail owner.

Eaton Turner told the court: “They regarded Mr Aydin as a slippery character. . . My clients have been hoist by their own petard, but there is only so high they should be hoist.”

However, Lord Justice Vos told him: “It is not in doubt that they [the defendants] were defrauded by Aydin. He is the big fraudster. The problem is that they signed up to the deals as found by the judge, and they accept that. They are hoist with their own petard.

“They were very unlucky in that it all went belly up. But if you go into a dirty deal and it goes wrong it tends to go very wrong, and that is what happened here.”

Lord Justice Vos said: “She [the High Court judge] saw the defendants. She heard their evidence and she didn’t believe them. She thought they were crooks.

“You are trying to pretend that she was wrong to come to the conclusion that these were thoroughly disreputable characters who were fraudsters. That was her judgment and she decided to rely on the documents. How can we say that was perverse?

“The problem is you base all this on Mr Wyatt’s evidence and she [the judge] did not accept his evidence.”

Eaton Turner conceded: “Part of the sham arrangement has come back to haunt my clients.”

Turkish carrier Onur Air had its appeal against the High Court ruling that it repay £3.64 million dismissed in January after failing to provide security against the compensation payment.

The appeal continues.