Goldtrail owner provided false invoices to airline, Court told

Goldtrail owner provided false invoices to airline, Court toldBy Ian Taylor,

Turkish airline Onur Air accepted false invoices for payments to the owner of Goldtrail Travel in the run-up to Goldtrail going into administration.

Nedim Gürbüz, Onur Air vice-president for foreign affairs, told the High Court in London: “We would not have done it if we thought he [Goldtrail owner Abdulkadir Aydin] was acting illegally.”

Goldtrail went into administration in July 2010 owing £33 million after Aydin transferred more than £10 million to himself and his family.

Liquidator PwC is pursuing a claim for £3.64 million against Onur Air, which had agreements with Goldtrail.

Counsel for PwC Hilary Stonefrost QC asked Gürbüz to confirm the value of Goldtrail business to Onur Air. He agreed that in 2008 Goldtrail accounted for up to 17% of Onur Air revenue.

Stonefrost said: “You and the Onur executive committee would be very concerned if Goldtrail were to begin purchasing seats from another airline?” Gürbüz replied: “Of course.”

In 2010, Aydin was concluding a deal with Viking Airlines and Black Pearl Investments (BPI), funded by former XL Leisure Group chief executive Phil Wyatt.

Wyatt, BPI and former XL Leisure directors Magnus Stephensen and Halldor Sigurdarson are contesting a liquidator’s claim for £1.4 million in the same case.

PwC alleges all the defendants were involved in the “misapplication” and “misuse of payments” to Goldtrail.

Onur Air’s former commercial vice-president Mehmet Pekpak told the Court on Tuesday that Onur Air was concerned to have a commitment from Goldtrail to purchase seats.

Gürbüz told the court: “We were only thinking about buying shares [in Goldtrail]. Getting seat capacity from Goldtrail after becoming a shareholder would be a natural part of the deal.”

Stonefrost quoted from Gürbüz’s witness statement in which he told the Court: “We didn’t really know why we were using this structure. . . We would not have done it if we thought he [Aydin] was acting illegally.”

She said: “That is not right is it?” Then she asked: “Structuring an agreement to an offshore company for brokerage services that did not exist is very unusual, isn’t it?” Gürbüz said: “It was how he [Aydin] structured it.”

Stonefrost said: “You paid £3.64 million for the benefit of a long-term commitment; £1 million was for the shares.”

Gürbüz said: “I do not agree. All the money was for the shares; £1 million was to be paid to Mr Aydin, to his personal account. The remaining £3.64 million was to be paid to Morning Light.”

Stonefrost said: “You asked Morning Light to produce a false invoice for seat brokerage. It was a false agreement. Morning Light was not a broker.”

Gürbüz said: “I now see it is not correct. We were in a hurry. The season had started. We did this agreement. It was at the request of Aydin. It was not our intention to create false invoices or to make false agreements.”

Earlier, Stonefrost cross-examined Gürbüz on the lack of emails and other documents relating to the claim.

Gürbüz told the Court: “[Onur Air] PCs were changed in February 2011. In July 2011 the whole system of the company was changed. The IT manager destroyed the old servers and back-up data.”

Stonefrost said: “So after the claim was notified to Onur, the back-up tapes were destroyed. Is that right?” Gürbüz replied: “Yes, that is right, because they were not compatible with the new system.”

The case continues.

Sourced by Travel Weekly

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