In October last year, Guardian Assist sent out a notification to agents and clients who were owed money for promised referral fees on repatriation flight bookings, telling them that the Guardian Assist Repatriation Flight business would be liquidated and Guardian Assist would share the details of the liquidator once it was appointed by a magistrate of the court.
Guardian Assist then later allegedly claimed that Stockenström Fouché Inc would be handling the liquidation. Kirsty Rebello, who looks after airline supplier relations for FCTG, confirmed this to Travel News. But the law firm has now come forward to say that it is not the liquidator and has no instructions to act on behalf of Guardian Assist.
“We are not liquidators, but a law firm. We do not have instructions to act on behalf of Guardian Assist. If you have any queries or a claim, it will have to be addressed to Guardian Assist,” said Gert Fouché, of Stockenström Fouché Inc, in a recent email to Jenny Kutlu, owner of JMC Travel, who is allegedly owed money by Guardian Assist.
This correspondence casts doubt on whether Guardian Assist is actually liquidating its repatriation flight arm as it claims, or if, as some agents have alleged, the company may simply be avoiding paying the money it owes.
Travel News contacted JP van Tonder, whom Travel News understands to be the owner of Guardian Assist, for more information and an update on the liquidation status, but had not heard back from JP at time of publication. Travel News’s own emails to Stockenström Fouché Inc have also gone unanswered.
Owner manager of XL HalloWorld Travel, Linda Wattrus, who says she is also owed money by Guardian Assist, asked what recourse the industry had to fight against this.
“If Guardian Assist really did lose money when it came to repatriation bookings, JP van Tonder should at least have the integrity to apologise in an honest manner and be upfront with agents and clients that he is unable to pay them at this stage. The industry would be far more understanding of this, rather than being strung along for so many months while he fabricates such intricate stories. It points to the respectability of his business, treating individuals in an industry that is bleeding as ours is, in this manner. He clearly does not care about the people who are suffering here, that he owes money to, while he lives in Spain,” said Linda.