A travel agent who vanished after being prosecuted for ripping off elderly clients and leaving them stranded at Sydney Airport was named in another case, in which the Travel Compensation Fund (TCF) was ordered to pay AUD 12,300 to compensate a victim of the same agent.
The travel agent, Taha Baghdadi, failed to appear before Parramatta Local Court in March this year and has apparently not been seen since. In April, NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe slammed Baghdadi’s actions as “unconscionable”. See: Travel agent ‘vanishes’ after leaving clients stranded
Baghdadi’s agency in the western Sydney suburb of Bankstown, Pack N Go Travel, suddenly shut in 2014 and Baghdadi vanished. Clients found their tickets had been cancelled because they had never been paid for.
Suspicion lingers that Baghdadi and/or his agency may have featured in other, earlier TCF claims. That is hard to find out, however, as the TCF is in the process of being wound up. Documents relating to past claims have either been destroyed or archived, TCF board member and lawyer John Berrill said.
Berrill is one of a small team working to wind up the TCF. He says many files are stored in hundreds of boxes in a warehouse.
The TCF ceased accepting new consumer claims from 1 July 2015, and closed at the end of 2015. The TCF is technically still alive, however, and should survive for about three months, though most of its funds have been disbursed to state governments, to AFTA and to consumer group Choice.
The TCF board made a decision to extend the TCF’s life from the expected termination on 30 June 2016, to 31 August 2016, Berrill said. At the end of that period the TCF is expected to be wound up. It has long since ceased paying new claims.
The matter in which missing travel agent Taha Baghdadi’s name definitely crops up is a hearing of the Civil and Administrative Tribunal in June last year, in which Mohammad Khashashneh appealed against a decision by the TCF not to refund him money he had paid to Pack N Go Travel.
Khashashneh and his wife Bara’ah Zulghena paid Pack N Go Travel AUD 12,300 in cash for international flights for themselves and their family, but the travel agency went out of business and the flights were never booked.
Khashashneh applied to the TCF for compensation but his claim was refused. He then applied to the Consumer and Commercial Division of the Tribunal. At a hearing on 3 March 2015 the Tribunal refused Khashashneh’s application for an adjournment and dismissed his claim.
Khashashneh and Bara’ah Zulghena appealed those decisions on a question of law and on other grounds. The Civil and Administrative Tribunal of NSW found that Khashashneh did not receive a fair hearing and that his case had been pre-judged on the basis of an incorrect view of the law.
After a new hearing and fresh evidence, the Tribunal upheld the claim of Khashashneh and his wife and ordered that the Travel Compensation Fund pay them AUD 12,300.
An account of the case can be read on: https://www.caselaw.nsw.gov.au/decision/55a5a28ae4b0f1d031deaad1
Written by Peter Needham