Court hears of AIB fears for £750m in alleged fraud case
A SENIOR executive at Allied Irish Banks told a subordinate to “pull his finger out” amid growing fears they had been defrauded out of £750 million, a British court heard yesterday.
David McWilliam, AIB’s former managing director of corporate banking in Britain, accused the bank’s relationship manager Michael Cooke of being inefficient when it came to checking guarantees given by borrowers Achilleas Kallakis and Alexander Williams.
Mr Kallakis and Mr Williams are accused of defrauding AIB out of £750 million in property loans. They are accused of doing so by providing fake guarantees from highly respected Hong Kong estate agent Sun Hun Kai Properties (SHKP).
Mr McWilliam, who retired from AIB in 2009, told of how he had wanted Mr Cooke to “get on the bloody plane” to Hong Kong to check the guarantees with SHKP bosses. He also told Southwark Crown Court how he had met Mr Kallakis at London’s Ritz Hotel and at the Monaco Grand Prix in an effort to discover more about the alleged fraudster.
Asked by Victor Temple QC, prosecuting, about efforts by Mr Cooke to investigate Mr Kallakis’s and Mr Williams’s supposed involvement with SHKP, Mr McWilliam said: “Sometimes he was juggling different balls at the same time. Sometimes he did not act with the efficiency the bank would have liked.”
Asked for the essence of what had been said, he answered: “Just pull the finger out. There probably were stronger words from time to time.” Mr McWilliam told how AIB’s credit committee wanted to arrange a meeting with SHKP in Hong Kong and Mr Cooke was told to “get on the bloody plane”.
He said that, after weeks of discussions with Mr Kallakis and delays, the alleged fraudster revealed that a treasurer from SHKP called Jonathan Lee would be visiting London and AIB could meet him to allay fears.
Asked about Mr Cooke’s feedback from his meeting with Mr Lee, Mr McWilliam agreed with Mr Temple’s assertion that he was satisfied, adding: “They got the information they needed to get in terms of the role SHKP were playing and the financial integrity of SHKP.”
Asked by the prosecutor how he would have felt at knowing “there had never been a penny piece of the reverse premium paid to SHKP”, Mr McWilliam answered: “I would have been shocked and concerned. SHKP would not have gained value if they had not been receiving the reverse premium.”
Mr Kallakis (44) and Mr Williams (44) both deny two counts of conspiracy to defraud, 13 counts of forgery, five counts of fraud by false representation, two counts of money-laundering and one count of obtaining a money transfer by deception.
The trial continues.