Top girls’ school named its theatre after fraudster following £250,000 donation

A leading independent girls’ school attended by actress Sienna Miller named its theatre after a fraudster following a £250,000 donation from the “proceeds of crime”, a court has heard.

Francis Holland School, next to London’s Regent’s Park, removed  the plaque and returned £92,500 after Achilleas Kallakis, 54, was jailed over a sophisticated five-year property and luxury yacht scam in 2013.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is seeking to seize the money at a confiscation hearing at Southwark Crown Court.

The Francis Holland School in Regent’s Park, London (Alamy/PA)
The Francis Holland School in Regent’s Park, London (Alamy/PA)

Kallakis, who was known as “The Don” in high-stakes games on the international poker circuit, duped banks out of more than £740 million between 2003 and 2008.

The money was used to fund the lifestyle of the super-rich in which he maintained a fleet of chauffeur-driven Bentleys, a private plane, a private helicopter, a luxury yacht moored in Monaco harbour and a collection of high-value art works.

Kallakis and co-defendant Alex Williams were jailed for seven years – later increased to 11 years – after being found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to defraud.

The pair had both changed their names after pleading guilty to forgery in 1995 after making £85,000 by selling people from America and the Middle East forged aristocratic titles, claiming they owned ancient rights dating to the Domesday Book of 1086.

Following his 2013 convictions, Kallakis was found to have a “criminal lifestyle” and had benefited from the scam to the tune of £95 million.

He was ordered to pay £3.25 million based on his available assets, which at the time included a half share in the £4.5 million family home in Brompton Square, Knightsbridge.

Others, nominally valued at zero, were a multimillion-pound villa in Mykonos, Greece, containing an Andy Warhol dollar sign artwork, and a £250,000 Queen’s Club debenture.

Kallakis satisfied the confiscation order in 2015 but was on Monday back in court, which heard he donated a quarter of a million pounds to Francis Holland School – which charges fees of more than £21,000 a year and boasts alumni including model Cara Delevingne, 30.

The Sandman premiere
Actress Sienna Miller attended the Francis Holland School (Ian West/PA)

The school, which was attended by Kallakis’ daughter Erinoula at the time, was raising money for a new wing, including a new theatre.

It was named the “Kallakis Theatre” after he “negotiated the terms of the donation” with the headmistress and bursar, said Christopher Convey, representing the SFO.

Payments of £75,000 and £175,000 were made in 2005 from his Swiss bank account controlled by Swiss lawyer and businessman Michael Becker, said to have been a co-conspirator of Kallakis but never charged in the UK, the court heard.

“The money came from the proceeds of crime,” said Mr Convey.

The court heard the school had an account in the Channel Islands, prompting Judge Tony Baumgartner to ask: “Isn’t it rather unusual for a Church of England school to have an account in Jersey?”

Kallakis’ wife Pamela wrote to the headmistress in March 2020 recalling the “small ceremony” to open the theatre, but complaining: “It has come to my attention the school has removed the plaque… in breach of the contracted agreement” made in 2005.

In June 2020, Kallakis’ son Michalis launched a civil action in the High Court following the removal of the family name from the theatre and in July 2021 a settlement was reached for the school to pay £104,500 – including £12,000 in costs.

Now the SFO wants the remaining £92,500 it says is an asset available to Kallakis or a “tainted gift”.

But he claims he does not have an interest in the money, which he says was paid by the family trust.

Under cross-examination, Kallakis denied being a “career criminal” and said he still maintains his innocence over the 2013 conviction, claiming the jury got it wrong.

“I accept I was convicted but I don’t accept I was guilty of the offences I was charged with,” he said.

The hearing continues on Tuesday.