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Accountants brought in to handle refund claims
4:39pm Friday 18th February 2011 in News
THE company behind the ill-fated Lapland New Forest Christmas attraction has gone into voluntary liquidation.
Director Victor Mears asked accountants and consultants Grant Thornton to formally close down the limited company and handle claims from thousands of people who are still owed money.
More than 5,000 customers have demanded refunds, but it is believed even more were affected by the debacle of the £30-ticket winter “blunderland’’, where the nativity scene was a painted board surrounded by mud, Santa was seen smoking, and the elves brawled.
Investigations continue into the temporary Matchams-based theme park closed abruptly early last month amid a storm of complaints and bad publicity. It prompted a record number of calls to trading standards.
It later emerged that 65-year-old Brighton businessman Mr Mears, who set up the attraction with his brother Henry, has previous convictions for tax evasion and for failing to pay £500,000 VAT.
Dorset trading standards manager Ivan Hancock said: “We understand that two partners at Grant Thornton will be appointed as joint liquidators.
"Once they have control of the company, customers will have the opportunity to lodge a claim against Lapland New Forest Limited.
"Grant Thornton have advised us that they will be giving formal written notice, including a claims form, to all customers who booked tickets online.
"This is the majority of people who bought tickets.
“For those customers who didn’t book online or who do not receive formal notice in the post, the proceedings will be advertised in two local newspapers with full contact details.”
Mr Hancock added that Grant Thornton hoped to issue formal notice within two weeks.
“As soon as they do this, we will also place all the relevant information on our website, dorsetforyou.com,’’ he said.
“Trading standards is continuing to fully investigate the matter and will take any appropriate legal action against individuals involved with the limited company.’’ Ticket holders have so far been told to write to the company’s registered address in Brighton to seek a refund, but some have had their letters returned unopened.
People who have paid more than £100 by credit card should be able to claim the money back from their card providers.
Some who paid by debit card have also had refunds.
Mr Mears was unavailable for comment.