The Development Ministry yesterday referred Manos Travel to the prosecutor at the same time as it reassured customers of the bankrupt tour operator that they would not be left stranded abroad. Once a giant in the local travel industry, Manos’s troubles came to light on Christmas Eve when a group of travelers who had paid for a trip to Rome were barred from boarding their plane at Athens’s airport. While no one knows how many people are affected by the company’s bankruptcy, reports said the victims number in the hundreds and include customers who have paid for their trips upfront and those already holidaying abroad. Holidaymakers abroad can turn to the Greek National Tourist Organization’s (GNTO) offices for help, the Development Ministry said yesterday. It said existing legislation already requires travel companies to take out insurance or banking guarantees for bankruptcy and failure to carry out their obligations. Manos, declared bankrupt last month, planted the seeds of its own downfall three years ago with its sudden and rapid expansion into different sectors of the travel industry, said an industry source. «It expanded too rapidly into many sectors and ended up with debts of more than 14 million euros,» the source said. Between 1997 to 2000, Manos took over hotels formerly owned by the GNTO, set up its own charter operation called Air Manos and acquired properties in prime locations, in emulation of its counterparts abroad with their comprehensive range of travel services. The company subsequently found itself financially stretched and owner Manos Tsatsakis was forced last month to sell a 98-percent stake in the company.