Fantasy Tours director charged with misappropriating €400,000 in client funds, placed under bill of indictment

Fantasy Tours director Karl Azzopardi accepted €30,000 in holiday bookings in run-up to company default, court hears.

Former Fantasy Tours Director Karl Azzopardi was today placed under a bill of indictment after a criminal court ruled that there is enough evidence to indict him of misappropriating some €400,000 in 272 holidaymakers’ funds.

Azzopardi, 44, of Mellieha, was today charged with misappropriation, and with deceiving and taking advantage of his clients. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The court heard that even though Azzopardi was aware of his company’s dire finances, he was “the type of businessman who never wanted to accept that his company was going down the drain after 12 years.”

In February 2014, Golden Travel Club Ltd was officially declared bankrupt after an auditor declared that it was beyond recovery.

Taking the witness stand, inspector Ian Abdilla explained that on 7 August, 2013, hundreds of Fantasy Tours clients had their holiday plans cut short after Azzopardi informed them the company was going to shut down.

“Karl Azzopardi sent his clients text messages in which he informed them that their holiday had been cancelled because the company was unable to fulfil its financial obligations,” he said.

Questionned by Lawyer Franco Debono – appearing in parte civile for the victims - Azzopardi is alleged to have received €30,000 in additional payments on the day he informed the clients of the cancelled tours.

“In the week preceding 7 August, he was paid €30,580 in 31 bookings,” he said while adding that subsequently, a total of 272 clients lodged a police report.

During his interrogation, Azzopardi – the sole director of Golden Travel Club Limited, the operators of Fantasy Tours – is said to have told the police that the company’s dire finances were due to slow business.

“He [Azzopardi] explained that the company suffered its most severe blow in June 2013 when it booked 15 back-to-back chartered planes for separate tours. However, the tours were not successful, as he did not gather enough bookings.”

“Despite not earning enough money to break even, Azzopardi still had to pay €12,700 for each chartered plane, and forked out the difference out of his own pocket,” the inspector said.

Moreover, Azzopardi is said to have been hopeful that the company could recoup its losses and consequently, injected his own personal money and engaged in talks with Mondial Tours and Brittania Tours but these never panned out.

“He was one of those businessmen who never wanted to accept that his business was going down the drain after 12 years. He hoped that there would be a flight or tour which could revive the business,” the inspector said.

The court, presided by Magistrate Anthony Vella, ruled that there is enough prima facie evidence and consequently placed Azzopardi under a bill of indictment.

Lawyers Franco Debono, Marion Camilleri, and Angie Muscat appeared in parte civile for the victims, while Lawyer Kris Borg represented the accused.

Inspector Ian Abdilla is leading the prosecution.

The case is adjourned until 9 December.