£400,000 seized during investigation into Hajj fraud in Newham

By Rachel Bishop on August 21, 2014 10:29 AM |

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Around £400,000 was seized from travel agencies in East London yesterday as part of an ongoing investigation into Hajj fraud.

The joint operation between Newham Council's Trading Standards Team, Birmingham City Council Trading Standards and City of London Police, saw searches on two travel agencies suspected of selling Hajj packages with false or no travel protection.

A 37-year-old man and a 42-year-old man were also arrested after a search of an East London home and a travel agency nearby.

The investigation comes as tens of thousands of British Muslims have booked trips to Saudi Arabia in October to make the pilgrimage to Mecca and celebrate Hajj.

City of London Police commander Steve Head, who is also the police national coordinator for economic crime, said: "Hajj fraud damages and, in some cases, completely destroys people's dreams of making a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Mecca.

"Tackling this problem continues to be a major priority for the City of London Police and this operation with Birmingham Trading Standards highlights our determination to disrupt any operation that we believe is a threat to Muslims who are looking to book Hajj packages in good faith."

All travel companies selling packages involving flights and accommodation must be ATOL accredited to ensure people are protected and insured against unforeseen circumstances.

Councillor Ian Corbett, Newham Council's mayoral advisor for environment and leisure, said: "This is a great example of joined up working between local authorities and the police to ensure honest law-abiding citizens are not ripped-off by opportunist crooks who try to make a profit out of their clients' desire to participate in the Hajj pilgrimage."

Anyone who has concerns about Hajj travel packages or thinks they may have been a victim of Hajj fraud can email hajjhelp@birmingham.gov.uk or contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, or Citizens Advice low cost helpline on03454 04 05 06.

Go to actionfraud.police.uk.