Thursday, 10 September 2015

Christian Holiday Company Boss Accused Of Fraud Over 'Bible Lands Cruise'

The boss of a Christian holiday company, which cancelled a Holy Land cruise, has appeared in court accused of spending customers money on his Turkish hotel.

Robert Flemming, 62, of Selwyn Road, New Malden, who ran Living Sun Ltd and Kyrilios Ltd, allegedly took booking fees totalling £26,000 and failed to reserve places on the ten-day eastern Mediterranean cruise.

He appeared at Lavender Hill Magistrates Court and was sent to Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court for a preliminary hearing on September 21.

Flemming says he has repaid every customer a full refund and retired from the industry after a thirty-year career.

He faces a total of six summonses brought by The Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames's Trading Standards department.

Flemming is accused of failing to provide information to customers of 'Bible Lands Cruise' between January 1 and November 30, last year; two summonses of engaging in misleading commercial practice containing false information; fraud by abuse of position, namely appropriating money for himself and two summonses of carrying on a business with intent to defraud.

Living Sun Ltd is accused of failing to provide information to customers of 'Bible Lands Cruise' and engaging in misleading commercial practice containing false information.

Kyrilios Ltd faces four summonses of engaging in misleading commercial practise containing false information.

Trading Standards began an investigation after a local resident complained of a last-minute cancellation and no refund of a cruise from Turkey to Israel on the 'Thomson Spirit' booked for October 13-22, 2014.

Customers paid a total of £26,000 and were told there money was ATOL-protected, but Trading Standards say it was at risk.

The money was instead used to repair a Turkish hotel Flemming had leased, say the prosecution, and no cruise was ever booked with Thomson.

Flemming is accused of issuing documentation to customers that flights had been booked with Thomson when there was no booking.

He told the magistrates: “I can't afford to go to a solicitor. I'm in the business thirty years and I'm well clued-up with ATOL regulations.”

He insisted he booked two cruises with Thomson, but the second was never properly recorded.

“There was no intention not to book the cruise with Thomson,” he told the court. “The cruise was cancelled because the itinerary was changed by Thomson.”

The cruise was ruined once Thomson canceled two days in Israel because of Gaza rocket attacks and opted to dock in Rhodes instead, he claimed.

Customers totalling 80-100 were planned, but only 26 booked because of new route said Flemming.

“We tried hard to make it viable. Everyone has been refunded, there has been no loses.

“I've not gained personally. I've closed the business down and retired.

“I regret the cruise could not go ahead.

“We ended up paying thirty thousand pounds in refunds.”

The ten-night cruise came at a cost of approximately £1,000 each.

“We have acted at all times in the interests of our customers. We have followed ATOL regulations.”

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