Xclusive trio punished over ticket 'conspiracy'

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The Independent Online

The High Court yesterday ordered three people to pay damages after they fronted an internet events company that failed to provide a single ticket to the Beijing Olympics, despite clients paying millions of pounds. The deception meant that the British swimmer Rebecca Adlington's parents nearly missed seeing their daughter claim gold.

Mr Justice Tugendhat backed civil claims brought by Wirecard Bank over "conspiracy and deceit" relating to Xclusive, which sold tickets to sports events, and found against Allen Scott, Geert van Meel and Terence Shepherd. The damages will be set at a separate hearing.

The decision was hailed by Wirecard and its lawyers Osborne Clarke. Tim Boyce, financial services litigation partner for the law firm, said: "This is a victory for the payments industry and for fans of sport and music everywhere. The decision sends a clear signal to ticket scammers around the world: you will be pursued for your illegal activities."

Xclusive claimed to have sold advanced tickets worth $7.5m in the run-up to the Olympics, which started in August 2008 but, as the judgment found, it did not deliver a single one.

Wirecard had agreed a deal to offer credit card processing to Xclusive in November 2007. As the company faced a rising number of claims for refunds from Xclusive customers, the Munich-based bank terminated the contract in August the following year. While angry customers, including Ms Adlington's parents, demanded their money back after paying prices of about £1,100, Xclusive collapsed into liquidation owing more than £3m.

Mr Justice Tugendhat said no one on behalf of Xclusive "intended to acquire tickets for the Olympics", backing the conspiracy claim. The Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which is also investigating the collapse of Xclusive, was in court to hear the verdict. In October, the agency charged six people, including the three named in the civil trial, in connection with ticket fraud.

The SFO said it was investigating the company after it failed to ship the tickets to Beijing and over football match tickets in the UK. The inquiry is in conjuntion with the Metropolitan Police.