Barking man who acted as travel agent sold bogus flight tickets

Safdar Azam

Safdar Azam - Credit: Archant

A crooked travel agent who left families stranded at Heathrow after selling them bogus tickets was jailed for 16 months.

Safdar Azam, of Hurstbourne Gardens, Barking, built up a reputation in his community as a ‘go-to man’ for cheap flights but started scamming customers when he ran into financial difficulty.

Dozens of unwitting families and travellers paid thousands of pounds for the worthless tickets home only to find themselves stranded once they arrived at the airport.

One of Azam’s victims was admitted to hospital after suffering from shock and depression, while others missed weddings or lost money they had saved for months.

Pakistan-born Azam admitted nine counts of fraud by false representation and was jailed at Snaresbrook Crown Court yesterday.

Judge Martyn Zeidman said: “Many of the victims were poor and through no fault of their own, really were vulnerable victims.

“People within ethnic minority communities like to go to someone from their own community for obvious reasons, so this was a real confidence fraud.”

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“They trusted you and you, in blunt terms, kicked them in the face.”

Azam began duping his victims in June 2011 after he found himself in debt following unrelated court proceedings.

Victim Aysha Khan, who only found out her ticket was fake after arriving at Heathrow with her three children, said: “It was supposed to be the first time my children were going to see my parents, and the first time I was going home since settling in the UK in 2005.

“I had saved for the journey for three years. I couldn’t afford to buy emergency tickets and we just had to go home.”

Other victims told how they felt they had let their families down by denying them trips to see their relatives, or took payday loans to pay for expensive last minute tickets.

Mohammed Shazed said he became so depressed and stressed over not being able to travel he was admitted to hospital. A further six counts of fraud were left to lie on file.

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