Three men have been spared jail for fraudulently selling supposedly Atol-protected Hajj pilgrimages to Mecca.
Family-run travel company Al Shafqat Hajj Ltd in Leicester fraudulently used Atol and Iata branding to bolster their image.
Two of the men further admitted holding a false Atol and selling packages without required protections.
The trio pleaded guilty to a series fraud offences and breaches of the Package Travel Regulations when they appeared at Leicester Crown Court in February.
They were sentenced at Nottingham Crown Court on Friday (October 26).
The court heard the offences took place between October 2013 and June 2016, including fraudulent use of Atol and Iata-branded stationary and making false representations to customers regarding being licensed by Atol and accredited by Iata.
Both Raja Shafqat Hussain and Raja Akeel Hussain pleaded guilty to being in possession of a false Atol on June 16, 2016, as well as operating the business between January 1, 2014, and August 31, 2016, selling travel packages without the required protection for customers’ money.
Customers, the court heard, complained about poor quality, dirty and dangerous accommodation and transport, inadequate food, and confusion over which of two similarly-named companies customers were contracted with.
Councillor Piara Singh Clair, portfolio holder for regulatory services, said: “People paying often large sums of money to travel abroad deserve to know how their money is protected in the event of insolvency of the tour operator.
“In this case, Al Shafqat Hajj Ltd took advantage of people wanting to make a religious pilgrimage, both by being dishonest about the company’s credentials and also providing a substandard service. The outcome of this court case shows we can, and will, take action against such unscrupulous firms which act fraudulently.”