Vladimir Markin said the chief of the Russian Investigative Committee ordered the committee’s “Main Investigative Department to probe facts of illegal financial operations, conducted by Neva and Labyrinth companies, which affected tens of thousands people.”
“Activities of the companies at the issue led to the situation, when people, who paid for the tours, either failed to go on a vacation or return back home,” Markin added.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev proposed at a meeting with government officials on Monday to conduct regular inspections of Russian travel agencies to determine their financial guarantees.
“I believe that we simply need regular inspections and the companies, which lack reliable financial guarantees, must be excluded from the registry of travel operators,” Medvedev said.
Oleg Safonov, the acting head of the Russian Federal Tourism Agency, said at a meeting with Medvedev on Monday that it would take up to a week to bring back to Russia all clients of Labyrinth from abroad.
“It will take up to seven days to transfer some 15,000 people and we have transportation means for such task,” Safonov said adding that the agency will be capable of fulfilling this task without the help of the Emergencies Ministry’s aircraft.
Neva, a St. Petersburg-based veteran travel agency with 24 years of work on the travel market, announced on July 16 that it was winding out its operations over financial problems. The move affected over 17,000 clients of the company.
Neva CEO Maxim Pirogov explained the travel company’s financial problems by “a bad tourist season” this year adding that the company had been operating at a loss already at the start of the peak season this year.
A series of active bankruptcies in Russian travel business started in 2010. Since then, over 16 travel companies have quit the market. Their debts under outstanding obligations (when money was received from customers but hotels or travel documents were not paid for) ranged from $60,000 to $600,000.
Neva has a network of franchise agencies (over 150 offices) in more than 40 Russian cities, according to information posted on the company’s website.
The company serviced over 300,000 tourists a year.