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updated: 1/16/2013 11:44 AM

Poker player convicted in $1.2 billion U.K. fraud

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Bloomberg News

Greek businessman Achilleas Kallakis, known as "The Don" on the international poker circuit, was convicted of defrauding lenders and using the proceeds to pay for trophy property, private planes, a yacht in Monaco, luxury cars, helicopters and artwork, prosecutors said.

Kallakis, 44, and co-conspirator Alexander M. Williams, also 44, defrauded banks to borrow 740 million pounds ($1.18 billion) and acquire 16 properties, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office said today in a statement. The purchases included an office building on London's St. James's Square that Kallakis planned to convert into a home until permission was denied by the local council.

The two men, operating out of an office in central London's affluent Mayfair neighborhood as the Pacific Group of Companies, conspired from 2003 through 2008 to defraud lender Allied Irish Banks Plc, the SFO said. They borrowed more than 26 million euros ($34.5 million) more from the Bank of Scotland, now part of Lloyds Banking Group Plc, to convert a passenger ferry into a yacht for Kallakis's use.

The lenders were given a forged guarantee from a Hong Kong company to get loans that exceeded the purchase prices of the properties. The suspected fraud was reported to the SFO by the Hong Kong firm, Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd., and by Allied Irish. An investigation began in January 2009 and the men were later charged with forgery, fraud by false representation, money laundering, conspiracy to defraud and obtaining a money transfer by deception.

The men, who pleaded not guilty, will be sentenced tomorrow with confiscation proceedings to follow, the SFO said. Lawyers for Kallakis at Corker Binning and for Williams at Lewis Nedas & Co. in London didn't immediately return calls for comment.

During a trial in London's Southwark Crown Court, the jury was told Kallakis used the fraud proceeds for a fleet of chauffeur-driven Bentleys, a private plane, helicopter, a luxury yacht moored in Monaco and a collection of high-value art, the SFO said. He was convicted with unanimous verdicts on two counts of conspiracy to defraud, the SFO said.

A lawyer and businessman who was closely involved in the fraud is a Swiss national and hasn't been charged due to his absence from this jurisdiction, the SFO said.

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