A woman who ran a travel agency in Southall, based at ABC Shopping Centre in The Broadway, has been given a three-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months for scamming people out of thousands of pounds.
Abida Khatoon Kyani, of Pinkwell Lane, Hayes, was sentenced at Isleworth Crown Court last month and will have to provide each of her victims with compensation as well as complete 10 days rehabilitation activity and 100 hours unpaid work as part of a community order.
Kyani has also been disqualified from being a director of a company for six years.
Ealing Trading Standards with support from City of London police launched an investigation into Kyani’s business activities following a number of complaints from vulnerable customers who didn’t get tickets they had bought through Kyani’s company, S M Travel Limited.
Between October 2017 and August 2018 a number of customers paid Kyani for flights but received nothing. Some even went to their departure airport with bags packed to discover that as the tickets were not booked for them, they couldn’t get on the flights.
According to Ealing Trading Standards most of the victims were buying flights to Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. Some of the customers were even persuaded to buy replacement tickets to reach their destination.
On 19 July 2018, as part of an annual joint national Hajj and Umrah Fraud campaign run by trading standards and police, officers visited the premises of S M Travel Limited.
An inspection was then carried out at the premises and documentation were seized for further investigation.
In August 2018, S M Travel Limited was put into the process of being liquidated as it owed creditors £90,623 of which £76,829 was to consumer creditors.
Councillor Bassam Mahfouz, Ealing Council’s cabinet member for decent living incomes, said: “Ms Kyani deceived people out of their hard-earned cash for once-in-a-lifetime flight tickets to visit relatives, often relatives who were ill. This case demonstrates that our trading standards officers will persistently and robustly pursue criminals via enforcement and through the courts to ensure justice is done. These actions by our officers have sent a warning to those who might try to profit by defrauding our residents and consumers.”
Mohammed Tariq, the council’s senior trading standards officer led the investigation. He said: “Many of these vulnerable victims, who trusted Ms Kyani to provide flights, suffered emotionally as well as financially from the difficulties that arose from this fraudulent and dishonest trading. It is important that consumers conduct their own research into travel companies that they are thinking of using and make sure they are members of ABTA and are ATOL protected by checking online.”
Kiran Seyan, Trading Standards and Licensing Compliance team leader at Ealing Council added: “This was a long complex investigation and I welcome the sentence of Abida Khatoon Kyani, which sends out a clear message to other dishonest traders that such unscrupulous business practices will not be tolerated in the Borough of Ealing and we will not hesitate to prosecute.”