Business Irish

Saturday 23 August 2014

Pair found guilty of €920m fraud against AIB

Shane Hickey London

Published 17/01/2013 | 05:00

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TWO fraudsters face jail after being found guilty of orchestrating a €920m fraud against Allied Irish Banks which allowed them to lead a life of luxury and consort with the likes of Prince Albert of Monaco.

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Achilleas Kallakis and Alexander Williams, both 44, were convicted in a London court of conspiring to defraud the bank in a sophisticated five-year property scam. They will be sentenced today.

During the trial, the jury was told that Kallakis used the proceeds of his fraud to fund the lifestyle of the super-rich in which he maintained a fleet of chauffeur-driven Bentleys, a private plane, a private helicopter, a luxury yacht moored in Monaco harbour and a collection of high value art works.

The pair were convicted at Southwark Crown Court of two counts of conspiring to defraud the bank after a four-month trial. The loss to AIB was more than £56m (€67m).

The men, who both used various aliases, operated from London business premises in Mayfair, where Kallakis, a one-time travel agent and lobster farm operator, masqueraded as a legitimate property tycoon.

Yesterday's verdict marks the end of a 16-month legal case which involved two trials and the downfall of Kallakis, a well known deal-maker in London's property circles and one of the largest customers of the bank.

Kallakis and Williams took out the loans between 2003 and 2008 using faked rental guarantees from a Hong Kong property giant – Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP).

Falsified

The fraudsters pretended they had secured rents on the buildings they bought for years into the future.

Williams, Kallakis's business partner, was described as being the master forger behind the scheme who falsified the documents used to secure the loans.

The fraud was only uncovered when a German bank told AIB that there were problems with the two men's past. British police later raided their homes and offices.

Both men showed little emotion in Southwark Crown Court but to dip their heads slightly when the jury foreman returned a verdict of guilty for both the AIB fraud and also another fraud against Bank of Scotland related to a €26m loan to fund a yacht conversion.

The current trial took almost four months of hearings during which a series of current and former staff from AIB gave evidence and detailed how Kallakis had portrayed himself as a wealthy member of a Greek shipping dynasty and regularly treated staff to a series of junkets abroad.

Both of the men were convicted of conspiracy to defraud. They had pleaded not guilty to a total of 23 charges but the jury was asked to just decide on the two conspiracy charges.

Judge Andrew Goymer said that given the nature of the offences, a "prison sentence of some substance is inevitable".

Both of the men have a previous conviction for conspiracy to commit forgery for selling bogus titles to unsuspecting Americans from 1995 – after which they changed their names.

Amongst the properties the pair bought were some of the most high-profile commercial sites in the UK, including the headquarters of the 'Daily Telegraph' in Victoria.

The judge remanded the pair in custody to be sentenced at 10am today.

He said he wanted to reflect on the verdict and draft some comments on the matter and exempted the members of the jury from jury duty for the rest of their lives.

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