The airline ticket scandal reported on YWN last week that saw millions of dollars and thousands of airline tickets to Uman suddenly disappear, saw its day in the magisterial court of Jerusalem today.
Some 2,000 people are believed to have been victimized by the scheme, valued at around $1.3 million.
Authorities launched the investigation after receiving complaints by two individuals who purchased tickets worth $635 each from the “Europnim” travel company.
One day ahead of the scheduled flight to Uman, the company informed travelers that it would not be able to fulfill the booking. The tickets were cancelled but the money was not returned.
Last Thursday, Europnim notified its customers that their tickets were invalid. In a message posted to its Facebook page, the company claimed that it had been the victim of a scam and would strive to refund customers their money.
A Beit Shemesh man, who is a shareholder in the travel agency Europanim, is suspected of fraud due to pretending to sell discounted tickets to Uman for Rosh Hashanah. Police also arrested a resident of Beitar Illit and Givatayim as being party to the scandal. The trio has been remanded into police custody until Thursday by the court.
According to a report that appeared in Bchadrei Charedim, the suspect transferred some $250,000 to a fictitious Chinese bank account in Hong Kong. The money then returned to Israel via a series of transactions performed at Change stores. Police also suspect a number of other individuals involved in the scam, who will likely not return to Israel of their own volition.
The Beitar resident was arrested in Tzur Hadassah on Sunday. The suspect is an employee of Europanim, and was caught after he supposedly rammed his car into a police cruiser during a high-speed chase. According to police reports, he resisted arrest and “attempted to rundown police officers and endangered their lives.” The suspect claims that he was unnecessarily threatened and felt afraid for his safety following the exposure of the fraudulent scam.
According to the owner of Europanim, some $50,000 were transferred to the airlines. Another $140,000 were refunded to those who purchased tickets. $70,000 are currently sitting with the credit card companies and $250,000 were given to the suspect from Givatayim who made the fictitious transfer to China.
The Beit Shemesh resident, whose only fault was having stocks in the company, was brought before the court where police asked that his reprimand be extended by four days. Attorney Nadav Gedalyahu said: “This is a false arrest. In the worst case scenario he was a puppet being played by those pulling his strings. having said that, the only charge that can be brought against him is bad business dealings, he was not involved in the fraud. His case will end without anything being found against him.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)