Fraud probe looms over collapsed Masters golf tour firm

The Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia
The Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia
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A criminal investigation is expected to be launched into a Yorkshire tour operator that took about £500,000 for overseas trips that it allegedly never booked.

More than 200 people, including a number of charities, have been left out of pocket following the collapse of Augusta Golf Tours Ltd.

The company, which had offices in Cookridge, Leeds, had been paid an average of nearly £2,500 a head to organise trips for 210 golf fans to next month’s Masters tournament in Augusta in the United States of America.

But administrators for the company said there was no evidence that tickets for the prestigious event, or flights to the US, had ever been arranged.

Among those who have lost out is a group that was raising money for the armed forces charity Help for Heroes.

David Wilson, of Leeds insolvency and recovery company DFW Associates, said: “It would appear that a fraud has been committed.

“There are no proper records and no real effort appears to have been made to make bookings and we can only assume there was never an intention to do so.

“Sadly, among those affected are a number of charities.”

Augusta Golf Tours was a successor to a company called Go 2 Augusta, which was based in Halifax. The firm ran a successful tour to the US for hundreds of golf fans for last year’s tournament, which is one of the sport’s premier events.

However, it went out of business a fortnight before this year’s tournament tees off on April 10.

Mr Wilson, who said the company’s boss Andrew Witney was co-operating with his inquiries, said all evidence gathered during his investigations would be passed on to the police.

“There are a lot of angry people who have been affected,” he added.

The Augusta Golf Tours website has been taken down and no-one from the company was available for comment.

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority, which oversees the Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing protection scheme for customers, said: “We have received official notification that the company has failed.

“We don’t believe there is anybody stranded abroad, but there are a number of forward bookings.

“We will clarify with people who are affected shortly what they need to do, about whether they need to apply for a refund, or if anyone else will take on the bookings.”

Information would be published on the website www.atol.org.uk in the coming days to help those affected, he added.