A director of a rogue Hajj travel company was found guilty and sentenced to 12 months in prison at Birmingham Crown Court today (1 June 2016).
Mohammed Arfan (38) who ran Al-Safah Tours Limited, based at 442 Alum Rock Road, Birmingham, pleaded not guilty to 16 offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (2008) and the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations (1992)
Trading Standards received numerous complaints between November 2013 and January 2014 from consumers who had been on the Hajj pilgrimage in October 2013.
Some of the pilgrims were elderly and it was the first time they had been on the holy pilgrimage – most had paid between £3,200 and £3,300 each for their trip.
The offences relate to the description and standard of the accommodation, the distance from the hotel to the mosque, and failing to provide information on insurances needed for the trip during the booking process between 31 July 2013 and 3 October 2013.
Mr Arfan attempted to shift responsibility to his father Raja Abdul Rahman, who he claimed had arranged many of the bookings.
Councillor Barbara Dring, Chair of the city council’s Licensing and Public Protection Committee, said: “Our Trading Standards team has led the way nationally on cracking down on unscrupulous Hajj tour operators. These Hajj packages are often advertised in mosques, so people will naturally trust in what they are advertising.
“Package tour operators have a captive audience because visas for Hajj have to be booked through these companies – people can’t do it themselves. This then leaves pilgrims exposed to criminals who wish to exploit them.
“I hope today’s case reinforces the message that we will continue to investigate and prosecute rogue traders exploiting pilgrims going to Mecca.”
Al-Safah Tours Limited is no longer trading – the company was dissolved on 6 May 2014.
The case was adjourned for a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing, to enable officers to further investigate Arfan’s finances, with a view to securing some compensation for his victims.
Notes to editors:
Anyone who has concerns about Hajj travel packages or thinks they may have been a victim of Hajj fraud can contact:
- Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06 or visit www.citizensadvice.org/consumer
- Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or visit www.actionfraud.police.uk
How to protect yourself and your loved ones from Hajj fraudsters
If you are booking a flight-based package make sure your travel company is ATOL (Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing) protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
A legitimate ATOL logo will have a four or five digit number and can be checked online at: www.caa.co.uk/checkanatol
ATOL protection is the Government backed financial protection scheme and means if your travel company collapses while you are in Saudi Arabia, you will be repatriated at no further cost. The CAA will also do everything possible to ensure you can finish and enjoy your holiday without disruption.