Two people, Achilleas Kallakis and Alexander Williams, were sentenced to 7 and 5 years respectively in prison each on 17th January, following their convictions the day before for defrauding financial institutions of upwards of £60 million (and they were on course to get over a quarter of a billion before the scam unravelled).
The sentence followed a four month trial, so it’s obviously not possible to distill the entirety of the case down to a few hundred words. But, basically, it seems that the fraud was relatively simple. At least, it was a complicated version of a very simple con trick.
Mr Kallakis persuaded various people in high positions in the banks (AIB was the main loser, but there were others – the Bank of Scotland took a £5 million hit as well) that he was a high-flying property tycoon and therefore to lend him money to fund property acquisitions. Mr Williams was, it seems, a pretty useful forger and his skills were critical in assisting the fraud.
As seen in the best Hollywood films, or at least the BBC Drama Hustle, there were a team of actors creating a back story to the whole scam. Some in the banks were apparently suspicious, but a combination of the forgeries and “wining and dining [of] gullible bankers” meant that they were able to carry his on for many years. It came unstuck when some of the loans were sold off to a German bank who conducted further checks and pulled the plug on the fraud.
But anyway, why 7 years for Mr Kallakis and 5 for Mr Williams? The sentencing remarks haven’t been published (but may well be in a case such as this). The maximum sentence for Conspiracy to Defraud (seemingly the main charge they both faced) is 10 years. There are fraud guidelines which suggest a range of up to 8 years for a loss of £750,000. But a case of this nature, given the huge value of the fraud and the immense planning and deceit, is one to go outside the guidelines.
To make matters worse for the pair, they have a previous conviction for forgery when they devised a scheme selling bogus titles to Americans. This would have, of course, aggravated this offence.
There seems to have been some issues with Mr Alexander, who attempted to commit suicide during the course of an aborted trial. Apart from that, there does not appear to much else by way of mitigation.
The sentences that were handed down were far in excess of the usual fraud sentences. But this is an exceptional case. It’s harder to imagine a more serious case of institutional financial fraud. On the face of it (given that there were other charges of forgery, fraud and money laundering), the real question is why were the sentences so low?