May 24 2013 Latest news:
Dominic Gover, Senior reporter
Friday, August 17, 2012
Muslims in London are being ripped off by fraudsters selling bogus trips to Mecca.
The pilgrimage to the holy site in Saudi Arabia is one of the tenants of Islam.
But crooks are fleecing victims of their life savings in what police labelled a “particularly cruel crime.”
Pilgrims snap up package deals at knock-down prices from a travel firm, only for it to close down just before departure date.
The scam is hugely under-reported. There were an estimated 300 incidents last year, with only three reported to police.
Wahid Zaman, 27, from Tower Hamlets in east London fell victim to the fraud. He lost £10,000 in 2008.
Mr Zaman said: “My family and I were fulfilling a dream and were so much looking forward to it. The situation was very stressful and upsetting.”
Met Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Kavanagh said: “Hajj fraud is a particularly cruel crime which robs people of the means to make what could have been their once-in-a-lifetime trip to Mecca.”
Metropolitan Police and City of London Police are advising travellers to make sure their tour operator is Atol protected, check they are accredited by the Saudi Embassy and to get an agreement in writing.