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Chase Bank Limits Cash Withdrawals, Bans International... Before you read this report, remember to sign up to for 100% free stock alerts Chase Bank has moved to limit cash withdrawals while banning business customers from sending...

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Richemont chairman Johann Rupert to take 'grey gap... Billionaire 62-year-old to take 12 months off from Cartier and Montblanc luxury goods groupRichemont's chairman and founder Johann Rupert is to take a year off from September, leaving management of the...

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Cambodia: aftermath of fatal shoe factory collapse... Workers clear rubble following the collapse of a shoe factory in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, on Thursday

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Spate of recent shock departures by 50-something CEOs While the rising financial rewards of running a modern multinational have been well publicised, executive recruiters say the pressures of the job have also been ratcheted upOn approaching his 60th birthday...

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UK Uncut loses legal challenge over Goldman Sachs tax... While judge agreed the deal was 'not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue', he ruled it was not unlawfulCampaign group UK Uncut Legal Action has lost its high court challenge over the legality...

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Buyer Group International, Inc. (BYRG: OTC Pink Current) | Management to Release Primer: Management, Discussion, and Analysis in Upcoming Financials Release

Category : Stocks, World News

BYRG (“Company”) to update Management Discussion, and Analysis with Release of Primer: Management, Discussion, and Analysis in Upcoming Financial Update

BYRG management will issue a Primer for MD&A of BYRG in the following days as updates come out.

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Buyer Group International, Inc. (BYRG: OTC Pink Current) | Buyer Group International, Inc. (BYRG.PK) Receives Copy of Executed Deed of Agreement From Lender Regarding Cash Backed Assets For Joint Venture on Feldspathic Sand/ Feldspar Aramco Mineral…

Category : Stocks

April 26, 2013 – Austin, TX

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Book Early for the Best Holiday Deals

Category : World News

HEMEL HEMPSTEAD, UNITED KINGDOM–(Marketwire – Jan. 25, 2013) - Booking early definitely pays off. Haven holidays have reported that in 2012 12% more guests booked their holiday before 31 January to take advantage of early booking offers. On average they paid £130 per week less than those customers who left it until a few weeks before they went – but for peace of mind Haven also offer a price guarantee. So if you book early you are guaranteed the best deal.

Follow this link: Book Early for the Best Holiday Deals

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Confidence trickster who defrauded banks out of £750m faces jail

Category : Business

Achilleas Kallakis, together with Alex Williams, found guilty of orchestrating Britain’s biggest ever mortgage fraud

Britain’s most successful serial confidence trickster, Achilleas Kallakis, faces up to 10 years in jail after being found guilty of duping banks out of more than £750m.

Kallakis and his co-fraudster, Alex Williams, will appear at Southwark crown court on Thursday to receive their sentence for orchestrating Britain’s biggest ever mortgage fraud. The former Croydon travel agent tricked a series of bankers into believing he was a super-rich Mayfair property baron and convinced them to lend him millions to fund lucrative deals.

The sentencing comes almost 18 years after the two men previously stood alongside one another – at the same court – pleading guilty to a forgery scheme involving the sale of bogus manorial titles to unsuspecting Americans. Reports of these earlier convictions were not picked up by banks because Kallakis and Williams had changed their names.

Far from being deterred by their initial brush with the courts, the two set about hatching an even more elaborate scheme – this time targeting bank loans. Stephan Kollakis and Martin Lewis were reinvented as Achilleas Kallakis (with an “a”) and Alex Williams.

With the help of William’s forgery skills, and an allegedly corrupt Swiss lawyer, Kallakis quickly had a handful of banks financing a string of trophy property acquisitions between 2003 and 2008.

Using his helicopter and private jet to shuttle between offices in Mayfair and a super-yacht in Monaco, Kallakis appeared to have all the trappings of a successful tycoon. He was well known too on the casino circuit, gambling large sums on backgammon and poker.

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 conviction brings to an end a lengthy prosecution brought by the Serious Fraud Office, which saw an initial attempt to try Kallakis thwarted when his co-defendant, Williams, attempted suicide. The first trial was also marred by a suspected attempt to nobble the jury, which is still the subject of a police inquiry.

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.

Nevertheless, there 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.

When fraud investigators tried to track him down over a year later they found no trace. The only clues were two files on the private computer server of Williams, titled “List of Common Chinese Names” and “Background info for J Lee”. When the net was finally closing in 2008, Williams ordered the server be destroyed – but the command was never carried out.

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. His lawyers showed the jury a picture of the fraudster with Lady Thatcher that had appeared in a magazine produced by the American Chamber of Commerce in the UK.

Kallakis had an altogether more ordinary background. His father worked as a port captain and ran an unsuccessful Liverpool nightclub. Educated at University of Buckingham, where he met Williams, Kallakis went on to work in a travel agency while living with his parents in Ealing.

Williams was very much the back-office boy who said little and would occasionally eat a Pot Noodle at his desk, according to colleagues. Asked to explain his use of false passports in the 1990s – for which he was convicted – Williams explained they had been for a girlfriend who could not return to China.

The two went into business after college in various ventures, including looking at the purchase of a lobster farm. His outward demeanour at court was calm, but he claims to have received death threats against his family once the allegations of fraud emerged.

On one occasion he said he put his wife and daughter on a plane to the Philippines, fearing for their safety. The jury were not told that he had attempted to take his own life during the first trial.

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.

Labour pledge new ‘jobs guarantee’

Category : Business, World News

Labour unveils a plan to guarantee a temporary job for people out of work for more than two years, to help ease them back into full-time work.

Read more here: Labour pledge new ‘jobs guarantee’

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Sir Peter Burt in line to chair Vince Cable’s £1bn business bank

Category : Business

Veteran behind HBOS to head advisory panel for scheme to ease credit flow through lender guarantees

Veteran banker Sir Peter Burt is being lined up to chair Vince Cable’s £1bn business bank which is part of the business secretary’s attempt to kickstart the economy.

The Scottish banker was instrumental in creating the now defunct bank HBOS in 2001 when Bank of Scotland and Halifax merged.

He had been chief executive of Bank of Scotland and did not take a top job when the banks combined – allowing the Halifax team to take the key boardroom roles – and left the enlarged organisation in 2003. He went on to chair ITV until 2007.

The business bank – a key project of Cable’s – is not a bank in the conventional sense but more a way to provide lending capacity to existing lenders so they in turn can lend to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which argue they are being denied credit by mainstream banks.

The chancellor, George Osborne, used the autumn statement this month to pledge £1bn for the business bank, which should have a capacity to leverage that up to £10bn.

Burt will lead the advisory board which will decide how to pass on credit to existing lenders – most likely alternatives to the likes of the big four.

The institution will need state aid approval from Brussels which is unlikely to be forthcoming until 2014. But it is expected to begin lending before then within terms agreed by Europe.

Cable’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills declined to comment on Monday night but an announcement is expected within days about Burt’s appointment and other members of the advisory panel he is expected to chair.

The business bank will provide guarantees to peer-to-peer lenders – such as Zopa and Funding Circle – which this week were praised by Bank of England executive Andrew Haldane.

The idea has not been universally popular, with some commentators arguing that SMEs are not borrowing because they overextended themselves during the boom before 2008 and are now becoming more cautious.

Cable, a senior Liberal Democrat, has previously favoured nationalising the Royal Bank of Scotland — which is 82% owned by the taxpayer — to try to kickstart lending. The business bank is his idea to get credit flowing to a crucial sector.

The funding for lending scheme run by the Bank of England and also intended to get lending going has had a slow start. Labour pointed out that lending statistics for the BIS’s enterprise finance guarantee scheme showed lending now less than a third of what it was in 2009/10.

Burt’s appointment follows a series of hearings by the banking standards commission into the collapse of HBOS and its rescue by Lloyds in 2008.

Former bosses of the enlarged bank have admitted lending decisions were incompetent while Peter Cummings, the only former executive to be banned from the City, has criticised regulators and former colleagues for the growth targets he was set.

France and Belgium take control of Dexia

Category : Business

Further help cannot be ruled out says minister as lender is handed third bailout amidst mounting losses

Franco-Belgian bank Dexia has been given a third bailout as the repercussions of the banking crisis continue to shake the financial system four years on.

The French and Belgian governments will pay €5.5bn (£4.4bn) to take near-full control of the bank, once the world’s biggest municipal lender, after it reported a nine-month loss of €2.39bn.

The institution lost €11.6bn last year due to its exposure to sovereign debt across Europe, and contributed to Belgium’s credit rating being downgraded after the French and Belgian governments guaranteed €90bn of loans.

The latest bailout involves Belgium paying €2.9bn and France €2.6bn, leaving them guaranteeing 51.4% and 45.6% of the bank’s debts respectively. The remaining 3% is held by Luxembourg. Belgium’s finance minister, Steven Vanackere, said he could not rule out a future bailout: “Is it a total guarantee? People who give such a guarantee are unwise.”

The bank is still exposed to government debts across the eurozone with €38.5bn outstanding in Italy, €24.1bn in Spain, €3.8bn in Portugal, €1.7bn in Ireland and €405m in Greece – although Greek exposure has been reduced by 74%.

The deal, agreed on Wednesday night, will give the French and Belgian governments a holding of around 94%.

The bank said it was necessary to “avoid the materialisation of a systemic risk in the case of bankruptcy of the Dexia Group”.

In the bank’s first bailout in 2008 it received €6bn of help from France and Belgium. Last year the bank, which provides backing for more than 40 private finance initiative projects in the UK, persuaded France and Belgium to guarantee loans worth up to €90bn, due to its €3.4bn exposure to Greek debt putting off rival banks from lending it any money. That deal was allowed on condition Dexia cut operations and sold off subsidiaries.

A sell-off of assets at a loss has hit Dexia’s bottom line, with the company revealing a €599m loss on the sale of its Turkish business DenizBank and a €466m loss from selling its Dexia Municipal Agency.

Dexia Municipal Agency was sold for €8.7bn, while Russian firm Sberbank bought DenizBank for €2.8bn. Its Belgian bank was nationalised and its Luxembourg unit was sold to a Qatari consortium led by the country’s royal family.

Any deal on the bailout must first be agreed by the European Commission, which is wary of raising sovereign debt. Belgian debt is already at nearly 100% of GDP. There has been tension with the commission over past bailouts, with bureaucrats citing anti-competition rules and delaying the decision.

Last year’s guarantee to the bank led to credit rating agency Moody’s downgrading Belgium’s credit rating from AA1 to AA3 on a negative outlook.

The agency said in December that the second Dexia bailout was a main factor in its decision. It said: “There is a significant risk that the dismantling of the Dexia group, and especially the run-off process of Dexia Credit Local, will result in increases in government debt metrics, although Moody’s notes that the precise extent of any increase remains highly uncertain … Moody’s estimates these current exposures as representing close to 10% of the country’s GDP.”

French government to bail out Crédit Immobilier de France

Category : Business

Banking group fails to find buyer after ‘liquidity crisis’

France’s government has stepped in to rescue the floundering banking group Crédit Immobilier de France after the search for a buyer failed.

The move came after the credit-rating agency Moody’s downgraded CIF, which has been up for sale since May after what it described as a “liquidity crisis”.

Pierre Moscovici, the French finance minister, said the bailout was subject to the approval of the European commission. He said the financial institution’s business model had been “weakened by the [economic] crisis”.

“To allow CIF to respect all of its engagements, the state has decided to respond favourably to its request to grant it a guarantee. This guarantee will be put in place on the condition that the European commission and parliament agrees,” Moscovici said.

It is the latest financial headache to hit the French president, François Hollande, whose Socialist administration has been forced to deal with the fallout over large-scale job cuts at other major companies such as Peugeot and the supermarket chain Carrefour. The French government is also handling the winding-down of the Franco-Belgian financial group Dexia.

CIF, which specialised in mortgage lending to less privileged families, encountered problems when previously cheap funding from credit markets, on which it depends to finance its operations, dried up. A €1.7bn (£1.34bn) covered bond is due to expire in October.

The government has not said whether it will continue to seek a buyer for CIF or try to wind down the group. However, Le Figaro said a winding down of the group, which has about 300 branches and more than €30bn-worth (£23.76bn) of loans, was the most likely outcome.

The paper added that Moscovici acted in spite of opposition from the government-owned Banque Postale to a CIF rescue in the hope of avoiding panic in the financial markets.

CIF’s chief executive, Claude Sadoun, resigned after a crisis meeting last week. He is to be replaced by Bernard Sevez, head of a Savoie-based social housing group.

The government, which did not mention Sadoun by name, said it would ask the company’s “previous CEO” to relinquish all potential severance payments.

In the 1990s, the French government nationalised a similar banking institution, the Crédit Foncier de France, but officials said there were no plans for it to take over CIF.

The French government yesterday said it has agreed to rescue Credit Immobilier de France ((CIF)), a mortgage lender that was put up for sale in May after it lost access to funding from credit markets. As long as the EU approves, the state will…

Category : World News

The French government yesterday said it has agreed to rescue Credit Immobilier de France (CIF), a mortgage lender that was put up for sale in May after it lost access to funding from credit markets. As long as the EU approves, the state will provide a guarantee to CIF, which faces the expiration of €1.75B covered bond in early October.
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Link: The French government yesterday said it has agreed to rescue Credit Immobilier de France ((CIF)), a mortgage lender that was put up for sale in May after it lost access to funding from credit markets. As long as the EU approves, the state will…

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Facebook (FB) isn’t letting this week’s craziness slow down its buying spree (I, II): the company has just bought Karma (cue the one-liners), developer of a mobile product-gifting app. Facebook intends to keep Karma’s service running, and integrate…

Category : World News

Facebook (FB) isn’t letting this week’s craziness slow down its buying spree (I, II): the company has just bought Karma (cue the one-liners), developer of a mobile product-gifting app. Facebook intends to keep Karma’s service running, and integrate it with its own mobile services. Also: the WSJ reports Facebook is experimenting in New Zealand with a feature that charges users a small fee to guarantee their “friends” will see what they write. 2 comments!

View post: Facebook (FB) isn’t letting this week’s craziness slow down its buying spree (I, II): the company has just bought Karma (cue the one-liners), developer of a mobile product-gifting app. Facebook intends to keep Karma’s service running, and integrate…

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