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Friday 29 August 2014

AIB 'didn't check background' – fraud accused

Shane Hickey London

Published 21/11/2012 | 05:00

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A MAN accused of orchestrating a €920m fraud against AIB has claimed the bank never asked him for background information about himself when a series of loans were taken out to buy high-end UK properties.

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Achilleas Kallakis, who denies a series of fraud charges, along with his business partner Alexander Williams, yesterday said that he met members of the bank's property team once a week over an intensive three-year period when deals were being done.

The businessman denies using falsified rent guarantees from a well-known Hong Kong property giant, Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP), to secure the loans from AIB between 2003 and 2008.

Mr Kallakis claims he was a negotiator in the property deals on behalf of the Hermitage Syndicated Trust, which benefited his children.

When asked yesterday whether he was aware the bank saw him as the principal in the deals, he said he was not, as the bank had details of his children as beneficiaries.

Mr Kallakis said he had told AIB that he had an "informal agreement" with SHKP.

When the bank wanted to meet with a member of SHKP in late 2007, a meeting occurred with a man called Jonathan Lee, who was said to be from the treasury department of the company. The prosecution allege him to be an imposter.

Mr Kallakis said the bank had described the meeting as a "one of those things which had to be done". Mr Kallakis himself did not attend the meeting, as he was in a discussion with the principal of his daughter's school at the time.

The businessman was one of the bank's biggest customers until 2008 when questions arose about his background and a previous conviction under another name. SHKP subsequently said it knew nothing of the guarantees.

Mr Kallakis said he moved his residency to Monaco in 2006 and planned to build eight large apartments in a well-located property in the area. He said he did not anticipate construction problems, as he knew the Prince of Monaco.

He said the development could have reaped €200m in profits but difficulties arose as a result of the ongoing case against him. When problems with AIB arose in September 2008, Mr Kallakis said he was "distraught" at the events and became more and more concerned afterwards.

One of the properties which he had bought – Market Towers, a tower block on the Thames – was worth £80m (€99m) when he bought it and had now risen to £500m (€622m) after redevelopment under a different company, he said.

Both Mr Kallakis and Mr Williams deny conspiracy to defraud, fraud by false representation, money laundering and obtaining a money transfer by deception.

The trial is due to continue today.

Irish Independent

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