17 January 2013

Fictions

Two identity incidents in court.

In the UK the Guardian reports that "Britain's most successful serial confidence trickster" Achilleas Kallakis has been found guilty of tricking bankers into believing he was "a super-rich Mayfair property baron" as the basis for loans of £750m for property deals.

Kallakis (formerly Stephan Kollakis) and associate Alex Williams (formerly Martin Lewis) had moved on from business selling dodgy manorial titles to gullible people in Australians and the US (deals for which they pleaded guilty 18 years ago).

In 2009 the Guardian commented that Kallakis/Kollakis addmitted
selling "lordships" to Americans, Australians and Arabs for £85,000. Kollakis, who at the time worked for a travel company in Croydon, bought the titles from the Manorial Society of Great Britain, sub-divided them into districts and then offered them for sale via newspaper adverts. The scam claimed to be taking advantage an ancient process known as subinfeudation - splitting and increasing the number of titles. But the practice had in fact been banned in 1290.
A jury had heard how Kollakis and a co-conspirator used false names and passports as well as bogus companies, including a fake firm of solicitors, to set up the Institution of Heraldic Affairs. One of the phoney companies used a Latin motto which translates as "virtue is the way".
Various sources report that forgery in the 'lord of the manor' scam included forgery of Lord Denning's signature and that Kollakis was investigated over allegations he was selling fake Hong Kong passports for $50,000 each.

Having reinvented themselves, with the help of some forgery, they acquired prominent bank-finance real estate and rewarded themselves with the usual private yacht - apparently the vessel featured in Top Layers Interior Ltd v Azure Maritime Holdings SA [2007] EWHC 2844 (QB) - helicopter, jet and overseas holidays.
With loan financing often higher than the value of properties he targeted, Kallakis snapped up some of the most sought-after houses in Mayfair and Knightsbridge as well as landmark commercial properties such as Home Office buildings in Croydon and the Telegraph Media Group's headquarters in Victoria, acquired from the Barclay brothers.
But to keep up the sham, Kallakis and his inner circle had to work tirelessly, deploying actors, secretive offshore trusts, fictional backing from an overseas shipping empire and string of bogus references, to stay one step ahead of suspicion. 
Cursory checks would have guided the curious to entries in Debrett's or Marquis Who's Who, where readers can still see Kallakis listed as an "ambassador for the Republic of San Marino", author of The Wonders of Italy (1996) and a member of the development board of the National Portrait Gallery – all bogus claims. 
Kallakis and his helpers were able to conceal the truth for more than five years, wining and dining gullible bankers. The biggest victim of Kallakis had been AIB, which had advanced in excess of £700m and ultimately reported a £56m loss on the deals. A second count was tied to a loan from Bank of Scotland, now part of Lloyds Banking Group.
Other lenders who were taken in included Barclays, Bristol & West and GE Capital. HMRC was also duped. Tax officials conducted an inquiry into Kallakis's affairs in 2005, but was eventually satisfied that all the paperwork relating to his complex offshore empire appeared to be in order.
The Guardian reports that
At the heart of the Kallakis confidence trick were purported financial guarantees from a large Hong Kong investor. The only catch, banks were told, was that the guarantees would fall apart if the investor – Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP) – was contacted directly. 
This explanation was accepted by the bankers who were desperate to lend to Mayfair tycoons such as Kallakis. Years later, however, they were to learn the SHKP paperwork had been forged by Williams. Those who had sought to question the rationale for SHKP's guarantees were subjected to angry tirades of abuse.
It is unclear from the Guardian report why the 'don't contact us' paperwork was convincing. However, as they say in movies about preposterous scams, it just keeps getting better.
[T]here were some within AIB who had their doubts and it was not until the bankers started making arrangements to fly to Hong Kong and seek a meeting directly with SHKP that Kallakis agreed he would broker some contact. 
Jonathan Lee cut an impressive figure to the two men from AIB's property team in March 2007. A director in the treasury department from an Asian property giant – SHKP – he had agreed to stop off, on his way to Hong Kong from New York, for the brief meeting at Kallakis's Mayfair offices.
Lee impressed the two bankers although, in retrospect, they found it strange that he had no business cards. The SHKP man appeared to have a good knowledge of Kallakis's loans and asked informed questions. It was the comfort they craved. Any doubts about the financial guarantee's underpinning Kallakis's property empire had been well and truly put to bed.
As they later discovered, however, SHKP never employed a "Jonathan Lee". It did not even have a treasury department. It had never been involved in rental guarantees. And SHKP bosses AIB believed had signed the paperwork had never heard of Achilleas Kallakis. ….
AIB felt they had little reason to doubt Kallakis. They had been overwhelmed with bogus references from sources ranging from Credit Suisse to the economist Lord Harris of High Cross, all purporting to confirm the credentials of Kallakis. But in evidence Harris's widow said she knew nothing of the family friendship Kallakis claimed. 
In his defence, Kallakis expressed incredulity at evidence of forgery and clung desperately to claims that his connections to establishment figures were genuine. ... The undoing of Kallakis's scam came in 2008 when AIB had sought to sell on some of its loans to other banks to spread the risk. One of those it approached, the German bank Helaba, conducted some checks into the property tycoon's background and hired a private investigator who quickly began to peel back the fraudulent facade. They took their findings to horrified counterparts at AIB just as they were invited by Kallakis to his lavish 40th birthday party in Mykonos.
Less dramatically, the Canberra Times reports that Matthew Rixon has pleaded guilty in the ACT Magistrates Court to representing himself as a police officer and to public mischief. He had reportedly pretended to be an officer in an attempt to have his ex-girlfriend evicted from her home.
 According to a statement of facts tendered in court, the charges relate to a string of phone calls Rixon made to his ex-girlfriend’s rental property manager and police after their six-month relationship turned sour in June last year. 
The 28-year-old, pretending to be a NSW detective even though he had never been a sworn officer, rang the real estate agent and told him the residents of the southside property were under surveillance for cooking drugs. 
Rixon told the agent that a raid was imminent. 
Later that day, the defendant called the property manager a second time and said he wanted the tenants evicted so they would be “flushed” to NSW and arrested. The real estate agent became suspicious and played along with Rixon’s demands in subsequent phone conversations. 
Police investigations found there was no NSW officer by the name given by Rixon. Rixon also admitted to public mischief when he called police to the women’s home by [falsely] reporting a domestic disturbance.