Lastminute.com’s top executives, including founder and CEO Fabio Cannavale and Chief Operating Officer Andrea Bertoli, are being held by Swiss authorities as part of an investigation into whether the Amsterdam-based online travel company misused Swiss-provided Covid-relief funds.
Lastminute.com stated Saturday that a Swiss court “partially approved the remand of four persons, including Fabio Cannavale (CEO) and Andrea Bertoli (COO), for a maximum duration of up to seven weeks. The only other manager who was still being questioned was released.”
In Switzerland, where Lastminute.com shares trade, “remand” is a form of pre-trial detention to prevent suspects from fleeing or interfering with an investigation.
Reuters reported Friday that authorities in Ticino, a Swiss Canton, sought to place a quintet of current and former Lastminute.com officials “into investigative custody” as they look into whether the company or its subsidiaries misused Swiss-allocated Covid relief monies.
Prosecutors froze $7 million (7 million Swiss francs) in Lastminute.com accounts, Reuters reported.
Lastminute.com said the investigation revolves around potential charges of fraud, unlawfully claiming social assistance benefits, and violation of the Swiss Unemployment Insurance Act.
The current Lastminute.com, founded as Bravofly Rumbo Group in 2004, is not to be confused with the iconic UK-based online travel agency Lastminute.com that launched in London in 1998. Texas-based Sabre sold Lastminute.com’s global operations to Bravolfly Rumbo Group in 2015, and the latter rebranded to Lastminute.com.
The current Lastminute.com operates online travel agency and metasearch brands, including Lastminute.com, Volagratis, Rumbo, Bravofly, Weg.de, Jetcost, Hotelscan, Crocierissime, and Fwd. Its strongest presence is in Spain, Italy, UK, France and Germany.
Lastminute.com issued statements about the existence of the probe and the remand of executives, but hasn’t comment on the merits of the investigation.
Update: Lastminute.com Group announced Monday that the board appointed Laura Amoretti as interim CEO, effective immediately, and stripped CEO Fabio Cannavale and Chief Operating Officer Andrea Bertoli of all duties at the company for three months because of the Swiss investigation.
The board will launch a search for a permanent CEO.
Amoretti has served as the Group’s chief customer officer since 2019.
Board chairman Laurent Foata said in a statement: “Laura is a very committed and dynamic leader with vision, energy and substantial relevant experience with our group. Her contribution will be especially precious at this juncture. We look forward to engaging closely with Laura in her new role as she will lead our business forward in this stage of our journey towards profitable growth in the field of travel.”
Note: This story has been updated to reflect the naming of an interim CEO.
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Tags: arrests, bravofly, covid relief funds, fraud, lastminute.com, metasearch, online travel agencies, online travel newsletter, otas, switzerland
Photo credit: Lastminute.com CEO Fabio Cannavale is being detained by Swiss authorities in an investigation into Covid relief fund fraud.