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Five directors at TUI Travel have pocketed nearly £8 million in performance-related payouts for the past year despite the tour operator having to write off £117 million following an accounting blunder, it has been reported.

Chief executive Peter Long and four fellow directors received £4.9 million worth of shares this month, on top of £3 million worth in February, according to the Observer newspaper.

The latest payout, which was disclosed in a stock market filing, is in addition to money they receive through their salaries, cash bonuses and pension contributions, all of which will be detailed in the group's annual report, due to be published later this month.

Mr Long received shares worth nearly £1.8 million under the group's performance share plan and deferred annual bonus scheme. Among the other executives who received a payout was Paul Bowtell, who stood down as the group's finance director in October, following the accounting problems at TUI. He received shares worth £757,000.

It was not possible to contact anyone at TUI to comment on the report.

TUI, which is best known for its Thomson and First Choice brands, announced in October that it would have to write off £117 million as a result of an error relating to its failure to correctly reconcile the separate accounting systems used in the retail and tour operator businesses within TUI UK.

The problems came to light after the integration of IT systems in its mainstream UK business following TUI's merger with First Choice in 2007. The group first identified £29 million of write-offs in August and an ongoing audit highlighted a further £88 million of irrecoverable balances. It was also forced to restate its 2009 results, wiping £42 million off its operating profits, while it took a further £5 million hit in the accounts for the year to September 30, 2010.

The tour operator, which is owned by Germany's Tui AG, announced last week that it was parting company with its auditor KPMG.

It said in a statement: "Following the restatement of the results for the financial year ended 30 September 2009, TUI Travel has agreed with KPMG that it is appropriate that new group auditors should be appointed."

Shareholders will vote on accepting PricewaterhouseCoopers as the new auditors at the group's annual meeting in February.


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