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Westpac is accusing Forum Finance and its chief, football personality Bill Papas, of orchestrating more than 100 fraudulent transactions that bilked the bank out of more than $340 million over a period of under three years.
The extent of the alleged fraud was detailed in a statement filed by the bank this week against Papas, his business partner, Vincenzo Tesoriero, Forum Finance and its related companies, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
In the 292-page document, Westpac alleges that between September 2019 and June 2021, Forum entities received $341 million through more than 100 transactions. Forum allegedly used phony invoices and forged signatures to obtain loans from Westpac without the consent of at least seven of the bank’s major corporate clients. Westpac has moved to have the company liquidated in an effort to recoup some of its losses.
The Herald reported last week that at least $40 million was spent by Forum directors buying luxury properties and a chain of petrol stations in tiny Victorian hamlets. The paper also revealed that a part of Forum’s business has been sold to local data-services business Our Kloud – a business operated by a relative of Papas.
Westpac also believes that Papas has vast offshore business interests in Germany, Greece, Singapore and New Zealand. The bank also says Papas owns property in Greece and a race car worth $630,000 – and that he purchased boats and jewellery using Westpac’s money, the Herald reported. Papas also spent millions to buy Greek soccer team Xanthi FC.
Westpac alleged in its statement that Papas – or someone under his direction – created face documents to secure loans in the names of the bank’s clients: Scentre, Coles, WesTrac, Veolia, HWL Ebsworth, Catholic Healthcare and Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group. The bank said that each of more than 100 transactions detailed in its statement were “not genuine.”
“The transaction documents had not been executed by and were not binding … but rather forged by Mr Papas or at Mr Papas’ direction,” the bank said. “There was fraud, dishonesty, misrepresentation and negligence on the part of forum finance as the transaction … documents were false and fraudulent.”
Papas, Tesoriero and Forum are subject to freezing orders, the Herald reported. At a Thursday hearing, Federal Court Justice Michael Lee slammed the material provided by Papas in response to orders that he detail his assets and liabilities.
“It really is reaching the stage of being entirely unsatisfactory,” Lee said.
Papas is reportedly currently in Greece. He had pledged to return to Australia, but said he was unable to due to a positive COVID-19 test. Papas tried to assure the court that he really did intend to return by providing what was purported to be the flight itinerary for his cancelled July 10 trip to Australia. However, Westpac’s lawyer, Jeremy Giles SC, pointed out that the itinerary was a screenshot from a website and did not include usual itinerary elements such as flight times, the Herald reported.
Lee agreed. “I would not, myself, call that an itinerary as that word is usually used,” he said.
Ryan Smith is currently an executive editor at Key Media, where he started as a journalist in 2013. He has since he worked his way up to managing editor and is now an executive editor. He edits content for several B2B publications across the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. He also writes feature content for trade publications for the insurance and mortgage industries.
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