Tuesday 22 October 2019

Green is buyer of property at centre of fraud probe

AIB lent cash to millionaire Kallakis to build up his empire

Ailish O'Hora Business News Editor

Dublin-based Green Property, owner of the Blanchardstown shopping centre, has emerged as the buyer of the now controversial London properties which are central to the alleged fraud investigation by the UK Securities Fraud Office (SFO) into millionaire Greek tycoon Achilleas Kallakis.

Mr Kallakis took loans from Allied Irish Banks, among other lenders, to help build a property empire, but the investigation centres around companies linked to him that overstated guarantee for loans worth tens of millions of pounds.

AIB said earlier this week it is considering legal action against a number of parties after the alleged fraud.

It is understood that Green Property was approached by AIB to purchase some of London's most-valuable properties late last year and finalised the deal in December.

The property company, which is headed-up by Stephen Vernon, had no connection with Mr Kallakis.

Although the price the company paid has not been disclosed, it is believed that Green paid significantly less than the £850m Mr Kallakis had spent building-up his empire.

Tenants

Green now owns 1.6 million sqft of property in central London with tenants including the 'Daily Telegraph' and 'Sunday Telegraph' newspapers and the Metropolitan Police at an address in Victoria.

The investigation centres around alleged fraud involving companies linked to the tycoon suggesting to financial institutions, including AIB, that leases to tenants in the properties had higher rents and were signed for longer periods of time than was actually the case.

Some of the loans at the centre of the investigation were drawn down through AIB's corporate banking division, which has offices in the UK, between 2003 and 2007.

The bank became aware of issues with the loans and undertook an internal review.

When AIB sold on the properties to Green it booked a £56m writedown.

The bank did not publicise the issue.

Reporting its full-year results last month, AIB told investors only that the writedowns were "influenced by one large case".

In a statement after the raids on Wednesday evening, the SFO said it "believes that further financial institutions have also been deceived by the suspects".

Investigators

Earlier this week, a team of 20 investigators from the SFO, including forensic accountants, computer experts and lawyers, became involved in the inquiry, which has been ongoing since late last year.

Other Green tenants now include the Home Office's Immigration and Nationality Directorate in Croydon, bought from Mr Kallakis the Tchenguiz brothers and the Department of Health in Vauxhall acquired from the Reuben brothers.

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