Goldtrail trial: Wyatt planned new ‘vertically-integrated’ travel company

Phil WyattBy Rob Gill,

Wyatt revealed that he wanted to create a new “vertically-integrated” travel company including Viking Airlines and Goldtrail during the High Court case into the failure of the Turkey specialist in July 2010.

Wyatt, along with associates Halldor Sigurdarson, Magnus Stephensen and investment vehicle Black Pearl Investments (BPI), is defending a claim from Goldtrail’s liquidator PricewaterhouseCoopers for £1.4 million. PwC is also making a claim against Turkish airline Onur Air for £3.64 million.

The court heard that Wyatt’s investment Black Pearl Investments had agreed a £1.9 million deal with Goldtrail’s director Abdulkadir Aydin to buy 50% of the tour operator in January 2010.

Wyatt said that the plan had been to secure an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) to create Viking Airways UK, but the plans failed when Goldtrail went into administration. Noel Josephides, now Abta chairman, had been lined up as a non-executive director of Viking UK.

“We had the aspiration to build a vertically-integrated travel group,” Wyatt told the court. “We were unlucky that it didn’t happen because of Goldtrail.

“I paid £2.9 million in loans into Viking. The cash went into the business with the understanding that once we created this vertically-integrated group with BPI at the top and they started making money, I would be paid back over a period of time.”

PwC is alleging that the Black Pearl defendents provided “dishonest assistance” to Aydin and also involved a “breach of fiduciary duties”. The tour operator’s failure cost the Air Travel Trust around £25 million in refunds and repatriation.

Wyatt said he was “fatigued” following the failure of XL Leisure in September 2008.

“I didn’t want to get involved in a full-time role,” he said. “I wanted to be involved but didn’t want the responsibility of day-to-day management.”

Wyatt also insisted that he had just acted as a consultant for Viking in its dealings with Goldtrail, despite assertions by PwC’s barrister that he, along with Stephensen and Sigurdarson, had effectively controlled the airline.

He added that Aydin had agreed to sell half of Goldtrail’s shares to BPI for £1.9 million but Aydin had wanted to structure the deal in an “unorthodox” manner. This involved a share purchase for £500,000 and then a “side deal” for £1.4 million to Aydin’s Seychelles-based investment company Morning Light Limited.

Wyatt said: “I would have preferred a straight share purchase deal. We were struggling to accommodate Aydin’s requirement that we pay £1.4 million to an offshore company.

“We worked with Aydin to try to strike a deal but he was adamant that he wanted a large proportion of the sale price to be paid offshore. He insisted on that and we tried to accommodate him.”

Wyatt said that last share purchase payment was made on July 7, 2010 and they received the paperwork for the transfer on July 17, 2010 – the day after Goldtrail went into administration.

The defendents dispute the claims and the case continues.

Sourced by TTG Digital

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