Alleged AIB fraudster claims he was honest in dealings
A BUSINESSMAN accused of conning AIB and Bank of Scotland into lending £750 million (€905 million) by falsely claiming he was in control of a billion-pound property empire yesterday insisted he had been honest when negotiating the deals.
Achilleas Kallakis took the stand at Southwark crown court yesterday to claim he negotiated loans from both AIB and Bank of Scotland on the basis that he was the chief adviser of a trust with a modest amount of capital and he would not be the beneficiary of the deal.
The prosecution had earlier told the jury Mr Kallakis and business partner Alexander Williams had committed an elaborate fraud against both banks to secure loans that they invested in a vast network of commercial properties.
They persuaded AIB to lend them a total of £740 million between 2003 and 2008 on the basis of deeds of guarantee and documents stating Mr Kallakis’s wealth, but when the business collapsed the bank lost £56 million.
They claimed their company, Oregon Finance Corporation, had assets in excess of $1 billion (€789 million), backed up by faked documents from Credit Suisse.
Between 2007 and 2008 the pair, along with Swiss lawyer Michael Becker, also persuaded Bank of Scotland to lend them €26 million to convert an old passenger ferry into a luxury yacht – resulting in losses to that bank of €5.8 million, the jury heard.
But Mr Kallakis yesterday claimed he had represented himself to both banks as the chief adviser for a family trust whose sole beneficiaries were his children.
Under questioning from his barrister, George Carter-Stephenson, he admitted negotiating the deals with AIB and Bank of Scotland.
“I negotiated the deals on the basis that I was the chief adviser of a limited syndicated trust,” he said. “I was never the primary in any transaction.”
Mr Carter-Stephenson asked his client if he was the ultimate beneficiary.
“No,” he replied. “The trust’s beneficiaries were my children.”
Mr Kallakis told the jury trust decisions were made by Mr Becker, while he himself was paid $750 a day to act as the trust’s chief adviser.
His role for the trust was to find prime AAA properties for the trust to invest in, refurbish and rent for a profit. “I was responsible for the day-to-day running of the trust but not the decision-making of the trust or the power to put the trust on any particular course,” he said.
He said the final decision-making for trust rested with Mr Becker, who is not on trial. “Mr Becker wanted the properties to be AAA prime location on a macro level from the area of London they were in and even down to a micro level so that they had the AAA location in that street,” Mr Kallakis said. “He would only invest in properties that we could refurbish or renovate in some way that could add value to the property.”
The prosecution had alleged the pair created a fake death certificate for Mr Kallakis’s mother to hide his true identity from Bank of Scotland.
But Mr Kallakis, who admitted the death certificate was a fake, shifted the blame to his co-accused, claiming it was Mr Williams who was responsible for preparing or sending documents used to obtain the €26 million loan from Bank of Scotland. “Yes, the certificate is a fake. My mother’s surname is misspelt,” he said.
“At this time we were dealing with Bank of Scotland, they were treating the loan like it was a multi-billion-pound project. There were numerous requests for information and papers going back and forth. We were also in the middle of another deal so there was a lot going on.
“I was aware of their requests for information and it would have been me or possibly my PA who asked the registry to provide the death certificates.
“But these documents for the bank were not prepared by me but delegated to Alex Williams, who in turn delegated it to someone else, just purely because of the amount of projects we had on at the time.”
The jury has already heard that the men had changed their names since pleading guilty at the same court 17 years ago to a forgery conspiracy relating to a scam to sell bogus honorary titles to unsuspecting Americans. Mr Kallakis had been convicted under the name Kollakis and Mr Williams under the name Lewis.
Mr Kallakis admitted he changed his name after the 1995 prosecution. “I did change my name from Stefanos Kollakis to my current name. I felt I had done something inadvertently wrong, which led to the prosecution.
“I paid the price through my community service order and I had just got married and wanted a clean slate. I didn’t want to change who I was but changed one letter in my name.”
Mr Kallakis said he believed his previous conviction was not declarable to the banks as the trust – and not he – was being loaned the money and the matter was “spent”.
Mr Kallakis and Mr Williams both deny two counts of conspiracy to defraud, 13 counts of forgery, five counts of false representation, two counts of money laundering and one count of obtaining money by deception.
The trial continues.