THE Government is to probe the collapse of disgraced Christmas hamper firm Farepak.

Trade secretary Alistair Darling said it was a matter of great concern that thousands of families had lost money when the company went into administration on October 13.

He told the Trade and Industry Select Committee yesterday that his department's Companies Investigations Branch is now looking into the circumstances into the collapse of the company, which was based at Westmead Drive in Westlea.

Mr Darling said: "It is a matter of great concern that a number of people across the UK paid a large amount of money to a company that is now in administration.

"We do not normally announce investigations, but because this company is in administration I can tell the committee that this morning the officers from the Company Investigations Branch have now started an investigation under the Companies Act 1985."

The DTI investigators have the power to ask for documentation, records and anything else relating to the company to determine whether there has been wrong- doing of any kind.

They can recommend that the department take legal action against the company itself or anyone involved in running it.

A DTI spokeswoman stressed that the launch of the investigation should not be seen as an indication that the department believes fraud was to blame for Farepak's collapse.

As previously reported, hundreds of customers and agents have been left facing a bleak Christmas after the announcement that Farepak had gone bust.

It came 18 months after the company announced profits of £1.2m.

Since the revelation the Advertiser has been putting together a dossier of complaints from victims to hand to South Swindon MP Anne Snelgrove for a special Parliamentary debate on November 7.

Mrs Snelgrove said: "I asked the Minister to meet the Insolvency Service to look into the matter thoroughly and take action against the directors if needed.

"I am glad for my constituents that this is going forward. I am talking to employees of the company this week as well as the families affected."

Mrs Snelgrove has called on businesses in the town to pull together and help the Farepak victims who have lost their Christmas.

And people are already donating gifts, which can be left at the Premier Travel Inn, in Ermin Street, Blunsdon, or call 01793 747880.

'We will find out what went wrong'

THE news that the Government has stepped in to find out what caused Farepak to fold has come as a relief to some of the victims.

Liden mum-of-two Jadz Szuster had been a loyal Farepak customer for 22 years.

This year she was expecting £800 worth of high street vouchers which she said would make her family's Christmas extra special.

But the 47-year-old, of Ridge Nether Moor, said now that has all gone down the drain.

"I think it's a really good thing that the Government have said they will do something to get to the bottom of what's happened," she said.

"I feel like these people who have been running Farepak have robbed me.

"What's happened is no different to me than if they had gone into my bank account and taken the money for themselves.

"I'm not expecting to get my £800 back from Farepak, certainly not before Christmas, but it gives me some peace of mind to know they are going to be investigated because this can't happen and nothing be done about it.

"At least now the victims will find out exactly what went wrong and what happened to our money."

Kerry Thomas, 31, a single mum of Penhill, who has lost £230, said she needs to know what has happened.

"People like me can't take on these big businesses so for the Government to take action and investigate them is brilliant news," she said.

"It's really important for us to know why we lost all our money and I'm following everything that's happening every day."

Mum Laura Telling, of Lime Kiln, Wootton Bassett, who lost £400, said: "This is a really good thing because what's happened is so disgusting and people still want answers."

  • Read all about the Farepak Fiasco and the campaign for compensation. Tell us your story, read about others' experiences and help fill our hamper for the Farepak directors.