Flyglobespan files petition against E-Clear

Collapsed airline asks court to wind up the credit card processing firm that owed it £34m
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The Independent Online

E-Clear, the credit card processing firm linked to the collapse last week of Scotland's biggest airline, Flyglobespan, is itself facing failure after being hit with a winding up order.

The airline's management filed a petition in London's Companies Court for E-Clear's winding up last Wednesday, hours before Globespan entered voluntary liquidation.

Globespan was believed to be owed more than £34m by E-Clear when the airline collapsed. Around £14m was being held by E-Clear for tickets that had yet to be used by Globespan customers, while confusion remains as to why an extra £20m was held by the credit card aggregation company.

A provisional date of 10 February 2010 has been set for the Companies Court to hear details of the petition, which could see E-Clear wound up.

Globespan's problems were strenuously denied when The Independent on Sunday broke the news five weeks ago.

The fallout from the collapse of the airline group and the travails of E-Clear will grow this week with Allbury Travel, a company which took more than £40m in sales last year, entering administration this weekend. Like Globespan, Allbury is thought to be suffering from short-term liquidity issues.

Allbury is controlled by Elias Elia – the man behind E-Clear – through a controlling stake held via Allbury Limited, a British Virgin Islands holding company.

A spokesman for E-Clear, which handled the credit card payments for both XL Leisure and Zoom Airlines before they failed, said he was unable to comment.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accountant appointed as administrator to Globespan Group, said last week that talks will begin with E-Clear tomorrow "to agree an estimate of the likely chargebacks for unflown bookings." Meanwhile, PricewaterhouseCoopers, is trawling through the ashes of Globespan this weekend in an effort to realise cash for out-of-pocket creditors.

Although Globespan leased most of the planes it ran, it did own one aircraft as well as a number of properties and a database of customers, which is likely to be bought by a rival operator. But sources close to the administrator played down the chances of Globespan emerging from administration in any recognisable way.

So far, 550 Globespan staff have been made redundant, while a further 100 face redundancy after the administration process has been completed.

A total of 4,500 travellers were left stranded abroad when Globespan was grounded last Wednesday evening.

The administrator said on Friday that it had received 15,000 calls from customers of the airline since it collapsed, following its failure to secure new investment in the group.

Halcyon Investments, a Jersey-based company created to invest in Globespan before its demise, is believed to have been backed in part by a Greek shipping entrepreneur, Michail Zolotas, the chief executive of Grand Union, a shipping firm, and the president of Stamford Navigation.

Mr Zolotas is thought to have been drafted in by Mr Elias to invest in the airline. However, the investment failed to materialise in time for a Civil Aviation Authority imposed funding deadline last Wednesday.

Speculation is now focusing on the prospect of further failures in the travel and airline industry with Paddy Power, a bookmaker, citing Whizz Air, a Hungarian-based airline, as the most likely to be next. Other favourites for demise include Finnair, Malev and Aer Arran.

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