A bust travel agency was issuing customers with fake plane tickets for more than six months, liquidators say, leaving many stranded overseas or forced to buy expensive last-minute airfares.
Hundreds of people could be affected and are collectively almost $200,000 out of pocket.
The liquidator of the firm is "extremely concerned" that Travel Globe was able to operate like this and is calling for the travel agency industry to be more regulated.
"[They've] received money, they haven't bought the tickets and they've used it for something else," the liquidator said.
Travel Globe is the second small Auckland travel agency that the Herald is aware of to file for liquidation in the past two months.
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Manurewa travel agency, Travel Globe Ltd, which shares a building with an orthodontist, filed for liquidation on January 8.
The owner and sole-shareholder was Jujhar Singh but the agency's other director, Harvinder Kaur, stepped away from Travel Globe just 16 days before it was made insolvent.
Official documents show Kaur and Singh co-own a property together and have previously owned a number of businesses together.
Imran Kamal was appointed as liquidator and has told the Herald what he's uncovered from his initial investigation is "extremely concerning".
Dating back to at least August last year, Travel Globe's customers were issued with fake tickets and itineraries, Kamal said.
Often they only discovered this a week or two before their travel date when they contacted the airline themselves and were forced to pay for last-minute fares.
When they tried to contact Travel Globe they were either ignored or given an excuse, Kamal said.
Travel Globe was not a member of the Travel Agents' Association of New Zealand (TAANZ) and the customers' money wasn't put into a trust account or used to pay for their travel.
Kamal said most of the affected people are from the Indian community and some claims date back to August last year.
"My main concern here is the fake tickets being issued."
Kamal is still trying to get to the bottom of where that money went but is finding it difficult to get more information from the director.
He believes potentially hundreds of people could be affected and current estimates are that the company owes about $180,000.
Singh has told the liquidator that there was someone else running the business and he didn't know what was going on.
"But I've explained to him he's the director of the company so he's responsible for whatever happens to his business."
Kamal will pass the findings of his investigation to the Companies Office.
He is also looking into Travel Globe's other director stepping down 16 days before the company was made insolvent.
The Herald is attempting to contact Singh and Kaur.
Kamal said Travel Globe was able to operate in this way because the travel agency business isn't regulated which is also concerning to him.
"This travel market should be regulated because this sort of provider should not be in the market at all providing this sort of service to the public.
"Anyone can set up a travel agency. They don't have to be a member of TAANZ, they don't have to have a trust account and they buy tickets from a wholesaler. So there's no protection for the consumer.
"People just assume that things will be done properly and if it's regulated there will be lots of checks and balances so that sort of thing doesn't happen and the money that people pay is put into a trust account."
Kamal is not yet sure if there's any connection to Travel Guru, a Mt Roskill-based travel agency which went under in November that also mostly worked within the Indian community.
"I think it's a systematic way of operating, it's a similar way of doing things."
Kamal is urging anyone who has been affected by Travel Globe's liquidation to file a claim with him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org