THE sale of a portfolio of high-end UK commercial properties by AIB to an Irish firm, following allegations of fraud against a Greek businessman, has been described as a "gift from heaven".
A high-profile estate agent yesterday told a London court how the bank's decision to sell the properties for €815m (£650m) was "very lucky" for Green Property, which took over the sites in a deal which the bank financed with a zero-interest loan.
The comments came during the latest day in the trial of Achilleas Kallakis and Alexander Williams, who each deny 23 charges of fraud and money laundering, among others, surrounding €920m worth of property loans taken out between 2003 and 2008, allegedly using forged guarantees.
After the allegations emerged in September 2008, just a few weeks before the state bank guarantee, AIB sold off the properties to Green on a 100pc non-interest loan.
There was an agreement that should Green ever sell any of the properties, AIB would get 30pc of the profits.
Yesterday Gary Hersham, the managing director of Beauchamp Estates, said this was essentially a deal with no interest rates and "no risk whatsoever".
"I think Green Property was very lucky. It is a very strange transaction," he said.
"I think most people would have looked at that deal and said it was a gift from heaven."
The estate agent, who deals in high-end properties, described Mr Kallakis as "very shrewd" and someone who "liked to buy a pound for 50p".
AIB has claimed the properties had to be disposed of quickly and quietly in order not to decrease their value at a time of massive market turmoil.
Mr Hersham agreed that he thought of Mr Kallakis as a high net worth individual who exuded the trappings of wealth.
Yesterday was the second day of testimony of Alexander Williams, who was Mr Kallakis's business partner over the period when the loans were taken out.
The company denies any knowledge of the existence of the guarantees.
Mr Williams said he had a phone conversation with former SHKP chairman Walter Kwok during which he was "a little in awe" of the businessman.
Mr Kwok is alleged to have been one of the signatories on the guarantees, which he denies.
He also denies having had a phone conversation with Mr Williams, although yesterday the accused man said he believed "100pc" it was Mr Kwok on the phone to him.
Mr Williams's evidence is expected to continue today.