Two brothers could have made more than £1 million by misleading thousands of customers into visiting a Lapland-style theme park, a court has heard.
Visitors to Lapland New Forest were offered a winter wonderland with snow-covered log cabins, a nativity scene, husky dogs, polar bears and other animals, as well as a bustling Christmas market.
Instead of the promised magical festive treat, visitors experienced fairy lights hung from trees and a broken ice rink.
Within days of the attraction opening in November 2008, hundreds of disgruntled visitors to the park on the Hampshire-Dorset border complained to trading standards they had been ripped off, Bristol Crown Court heard.
Less than a week later the attraction closed, with the theme park’s owners blaming the media and sabotage from “New Forest villains” for the decision.
With visitors charged £30 a ticket and with up to 10,000 advance bookings online, the owners were set to make £1.2 million, prosecutor Malcolm Gibney told the court.
The two men behind Lapland New Forest, brothers Victor and Henry Mears, faced a jury accused of eight charges of selling misleading advertising.
The brothers face five charges of engaging in a commercial practice which is a misleading action and three charges of engaging in a commercial practice which is a misleading omission.
Victor Mears, 67, of Selsfield Drive, and Henry Mears, 60, of Coombe Road, both of Brighton, deny all the charges.
The court heard that Victor Mears was the company’s sole director but was being assisted by his younger brother, who was managing Lapland, and was responsible for the promotion of the event.