Stranded: PMB man and 160 others fall victim to soccer scam

2012-02-16 00:00

A PIETERMARITZBURG resident is among over 160 soccer- mad South Africans who were stranded in England after paying a travel agency over R20 000 each for their travel packages.

Clive Reddy told The Witness that his R20 995 paid to SA Sports Packages, was supposed to include flights, accommodation (including breakfast), two English Premier League football tickets and transfers to and from the airport and hotel.

The company billed itself as specialising in sports tours.

“We got to the hotel on Saturday and up until Sunday everything was okay,” said Reddy.

“Then the hotel management came and told us that the tour operators had not paid for the hotel. When we went to the tour at the Liverpool stadium, we met a whole lot of other South Africans who had also been left stranded,” Reddy added.

He tried to contact the owner of SA Sports Packages, Matthew Mitchell, but to no avail.

“Nothing had been paid for except our flight tickets and I assume the only reason that was paid was so our visas could go through,” said Reddy.

“We had to look for our own cheaper accommodation and make our own arrangements.

“Many people were completely stranded as they had only budgeted for food and some souvenirs.”

Believing that the deal was “too good to be true”, Reddy had even inquired about SA Sports Packages before purchasing his tickets online.

“I had phoned other travel agents to verify that it was a legitimate agency and had people check the company’s bank account. I even had people in Johannesburg go to their premises to ensure the travel agency existed,” he said.

A letter, received last Thursday, said the company was suffering financial debt and was going into liquidation.

Thami Bolani, the chairperson of the National Consumer Forum, said he was informed that the company has been liquidated. “This means that it will be difficult for these people to get their money back. I advise that they check the company’s liquidation status with the courts and register themselves as creditors.”

Many additional reports have been made on consumer complaints site hellopeter.com, with one user confirming that a criminal case was opened at the Linden police station, that will be transferred to the Johannesburg Central station.

“I have booked four packages to the UK in April, I suppose, I should be grateful that we aren’t stranded in the UK!!” said the user.

“I have made numerous attempts to contact the office of Matthew and Stephen [Mitchell, owner of SA Sports Packages]. I even went to their offices yesterday. There is no notice of liquidation and all their office equipment is still there.”

Another hellopeter.com user stated that “collectively, Matt Mitchell has pocketed approximately R3 million from all of us who have booked to travel during the past week”.

The company’s website www.sasportspackages.co.za is no longer operational.

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