"He expected it to be parked in a secure location, not in a field"
Asad Malik, aged 38, of Crawley, West Sussex, allegedly conned holidaymakers by advertising secure airport car parking and then actually leaving vehicles in a muddy field.
He was charged with six counts of making fraudulent claims, engaging in misleading commercial practice and unfair commercial practice between 2014 and 2016. He denies the charges.
It is said that Malik made over £1 million from his fraudulent car parking scheme.
Malik tricked drivers into leaving their cars with his bogus firms ‘London Parking Gatwick’ and ‘Easy Meet and Greet Gatwick’ while they went on holiday.
His websites claimed the cars would be parked in secure compounds with CCTV by professional chauffeurs.
The supposedly legitimate firms also featured a photo of a secure car park. However, Malik used pictures of Borders General Hospital, in Scotland, to con drivers.
In reality, they were dumped in muddy fields and bushes across the south. Vehicles were left unlocked with windows open and keys in a plastic wallet stuck to the windscreen.
A number of cars were returned damaged while some were not returned at all.
Lewes Crown Court heard that one holidaymaker saw his mini dumped in a muddy bog on TV while he was in Spain.
Prosecutor Richard Heller said:
“A young man called Keegan Bowes watched that broadcast in Majorca on holiday and was rather alarmed to see his own car.
“He expected it to be parked in a secure location, not in a field where it had been left.
“He contacted his mother Linda Glover and arranged for her to collect the car.
“She discovered the passenger door would not open and the satnav was missing.”
Ross Newman said his car had a tow bar style dent in the front bumper after booking with one of Malik’s firms.
He also found that his car had travelled 24 miles after being told the parking location was 3.8 miles from Gatwick Airport.
Mr Heller said: “He was very suspicious of the driver returning his car as he thought he was trying to prevent any damage being seen and made off very quickly.”
Many customers complained but they were simply ignored. Both websites used customer testimonials written in broken English as if it was translated using Google.
Mr Heller read one of the website’s testimonials:
“Mr John Smith left a review in December 2014 in which he described how his ‘experience with them was the suitable one, as I paid very less there which was around trip of taxi fare and got the full service both ends of my journey’.”
However, Mr Heller described one actual incident:
“In June 2016, Sylvia Goodman said her car was returned with a bent key, the language on the dashboard display was changed to one she didn’t recognise, there was hardly any fuel left, it was dirty, the time had been changed and there was litter in the car including a Co-Op receipt for mini garlic naans.”
The court heard that the bread was purchased four hours after the car was handed over.
When Trading Standards Officers went to the sites, they found no fencing, CCTV or gates.
Mr Heller said: “Malik traded through the named companies in such a way that people were defrauded into paying for parking services to have been of an entirely different quality and character than the reality.”
“When you are in the right, when you are in the wrong or quite simply when you are being dishonest or misleading if your site doesn’t have CCTV or you don’t own the facilities when you claim you do, you are not telling the truth.
“Someone is far more likely to pay for your service than if you tell them it’s going to be kept in a muddy field or forest.”
“And pay they did, this was big business.”
Malik denies the charges. The trial continues.