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Travel news and advice

Two directors held for fraud as Hong Kong travel firm closes, leaving at least 200 customers in limbo ahead of Easter holiday

Action Travel Services had contacted industry watchdog to say it was ceasing business because of financial issues

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 March, 2018, 9:05am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 March, 2018, 11:35pm

Two directors of a Hong Kong travel agency that closed abruptly, leaving hundreds of holidaymakers in limbo ahead of the coming Easter break, were arrested for fraud on Wednesday.

Officers swooped on the pair – Titania Ho Yuen-yee, 54, and Wong Tsz-kin, 46 – from Action Travel Services when they returned to the firm’s office on Woosung Street in Yau Ma Tei after lunch.

Police said they knew of about 200 affected customers and HK$3.6 million (US$458,900) involved, but added that there could be a lot of victims who had not yet contacted them.

Chief Inspector Cheung Lok-chuen from Kowloon West regional crime unit said the company, which had been embroiled in financial troubles since last year, had been selling packages with attractive prices recently in a suspected attempt to pull in cash to pay their debts.

Further arrests were possible, he said.

An industry watchdog said it had received inquiries involving 450 customers.

“We are investigating whether [Ho and Wong] were aware of the coming closure of their company and had no intention to supply the tickets and packages when they accepted payments,” a police source said.

Officers also seized documents and computers from the firm.

By Wednesday evening, the pair were being held for questioning and had not been charged.

According to its registry records the agency, founded in 2006, had three directors: Wong, Ho and Ho Ka-nang.

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Travel Industry Council executive director Alice Chan Cheung Lok-yee said the firm had contacted the industry watchdog on Tuesday afternoon to say it planned to end the business due to financial issues.

Chan said that, as of 5pm on Wednesday, the watchdog had received 97 inquiries involving 450 customers and HK$2.4 million. The firm’s council membership was temporarily suspended on Wednesday.

Six customers who approached the council for help had bought voucher-like invoices meant to be exchanged for flight tickets, hotel stays or packages within specified periods, Chan said earlier.

But none of them had received receipts franked by the council, meaning they would not be covered by the Travel Industry Compensation Fund.

About a dozen affected customers had approached officers at Yau Ma Tei police station by late Tuesday night.

The Travel Agents Registry also said it had suspended the firm’s licences. The registry issued a stern warning to the agency, urging it to contact all affected customers as soon as possible and properly safeguard their interests.