World Nov 14, 2023 09:51 AM EST

Students' Political Travel Dreams Shattered as Politrip Goes Bankrupt

By April Fowell

Students who were owed thousands of pounds by a political travel company that failed have learned they would not see a single penny of their money returned.

Young individuals were organized to participate in US election campaigns by Volunteer USA Ltd, dba Politrip. With debts exceeding £64,000, it entered liquidation in 2022.

It was confirmed by liquidators that there is "no prospect of recovery" for the over ninety consumers who were owed money after trips were canceled.

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Patrick Brown, a consultant for the company, is a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly. He established Politrip in 2017 and sold the brand to Volunteer USA Ltd., a new business established by Politrip's then-general manager, in 2021.

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At that time, Mr. Brown, a South Down assembly member for the Alliance Party, was paid £800 a month to work as a consultant.

One former pupil said that Alliance offered him an internship in elections in lieu of a refund. According to an Alliance official, the party was "not connected" to the firm, but they did have "sympathy" with people who lost money.

Nellie Gawne, a politics student, stated that her abrupt cancellation of her four-week vacation to Washington, DC, left her out of pocket more than £1,000. The 20-year-old said that as a result, she was unable to pay her renter's electricity payment in time for her second year at the University of Bath.

By arranging volunteer positions on global election campaigns, Politrip positioned itself as providing the "ultimate experience for political enthusiasts". The visits were organized and paid for by the youth, who also booked their own flights independently.

However, it declared this summer that all trips will be canceled because of "unforeseen last-minute operational costs" and the Covid-19 pandemic's effects.

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Allegations of Connection to Liquidated Firm Volunteer USA and Unresolved Vacation Cancellations

In October 2022, Politrip's operational firm Volunteer USA hired a liquidator. According to insolvency filings, the company had £2,000 in bank accounts, but it owed HM Revenue and Customs £8,000 and individual clients about £60,000.

The corporation will be legally liquidated in the upcoming months, and final liquidation accounts are required to be submitted.

When social media consumers protested on social media last summer that their vacations had been canceled just before they were about to travel, Patrick Brown distanced himself from the company.

He declared that he was "not connected to the company" and "not involved with them" on X, the old Twitter.

However, he declared that he was a paid consultant for Volunteer USA through August 2022 on his Stormont Assembly register of interests.

When Volunteer USA went into liquidation, he was identified as one of the debtors. Alliance has stated in the past that it was "at no time asked to participate in such an arrangement" and that no internships were provided by the party.

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