Holiday-makers scammed: Fourways travel agency boss gets court date

Alleged travel swindler Francois Swart will be in court again in February after handing himself over to police at the end of December.

Money paid in full for a holiday that never materialised, a warrant of arrest, and a man released on bail.

In essence, according to AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit head Advocate Gerrie Nel, a ‘simple case’ – but made more complex by police after involving the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks).

In the press release issued yesterday, Nel said that AfriForum had expressed concern over a straightforward fraud case being referred to the Hawks for investigation.

The allegations

In the press, the civil rights organisation states that Pamela-Anne Dolan and Bugs van Heerden filed a criminal complaint against Fourways-based travel agency boss Francois Swart (39) at the Modimolle Police Station in August.

Swart, the MD of Priority Escapes, is alleged to have defrauded several would-be holiday-makers of hundreds of thousands of rand.

“The suspect received full payment from the complainants for him to fulfil holiday arrangements on their behalf. The misrepresentation was furthered when the suspect issued documents purporting that the holiday was arranged and paid in full. It has since been confirmed that the documents the complainants received are false,” said Nel.

Nel said the couple approached AfriForum ‘when they were not provided with the investigating officer’s particulars or engaged by the investigating officer’.

Warrant of arrest

On December 18, Limpopo police spokesperson Brigadier Hlulani Mashaba posted a media statement that said a warrant of arrest was issued for Swart.

“Police appeal to any person with knowledge of Swart’s whereabouts to provide the details to the police by contacting the investigating officer, Warrant Officer Gawie Greeff, on 082 565 7800, [the] Crime Stop number [on] 08600 10111, the nearest police station or use [the] MySAPS app,” the statement read.

A reliable source said the docket was initially in Polokwane before landing on Greeff’s desk in Modimolle, hence the delays in providing the complainants with information. Mashaba would not officially confirm this but referred to a statement sent out on December 29: “[He] has been released on bail after he handed himself over to police on December 28. He was granted bail amounting to R6 000 by the Modimolle Magistrate’s Court.”

Caxton Local Media contacted the Hawks in Limpopo to confirm they have been involved in investigations, but no response was received by the time of publishing.

Arrest and court

According to AfriForum, Swart made his first appearance in the Modimolle Magistrate’s Court on December 28. The case was postponed to February 23.

“Following Swart’s appearance in court and what appears to be a renewed commitment from the SAPS to pursue the case, the unit will closely monitor developments and provide support to the police and the NPA if called upon to do so,” the statement adds.

Dolan said: “We aren’t doing this for ourselves, but for all the people who have lost money. We believe it is a cut-and-dry case. We were issued with travel vouchers to show that our holiday had been booked when, in fact, there was no booking at all.”

According to a report published on August 15 by Southern Africa’s Travel News, on August 12 Priority Escapes sent an email to clients with existing bookings, informing them of the company’s closure. The report said that this ‘was after some of them had been asked to pay in full the day before’.

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