He fled to Greece last year amid allegations he defrauded Westpac
Alleged fraudster Bill Papas claims he has been denied a fair hearing – a claim that didn’t hold much water for a Federal Court judge, who has ordered that the extradition and warrant process be accelerated to ensure Papas returns from Greece.
Papas and his company, Forum Finance, have been accused of defrauding $500 million in loans from Westpac and other banks using phony documents and forged signatures. In June of last year, Papas fled to Greece.
Last week, defamation lawyer Rebekah Giles contacted The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age with a statement from Papas in which he said he had not been given the opportunity to defend himself.
“I have been deprived of the opportunity to fund any meaningful engagement with federal proceedings commenced by a well-resourced financial institution,” Papas said.
The Federal Court issued an arrest warrant for Papas last year after he repeatedly missed court deadlines and breached freezing orders, the Herald reported. Papas also appears to have no intention of returning to Australia.
Federal Court Justice Michael Lee said Papas was “no longer playing an active role in the case.” Lee also criticised Papas’ contention that he hadn’t been able to defend himself.
“I noted with some degree of bemusement that it was suggested by a solicitor, apparently on behalf of Mr Papas, that he had been deprived of the opportunity to engage with the Federal Court, when in fact … Mr Papas did not seek to challenge the evidence,” Lee said.
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Jeremy Giles SC, lawyer for Westpac, told the court that he had engaged with law enforcement about the extradition and arrest warrant, the Herald reported. Giles agreed that Papas has had a chance to be involved in the process.
“Not only that, since then, Your Honour has made orders to ensure Mr Papas, the events that are happening in these proceedings are brought to his attention,” Giles said.
Papas’ girlfriend, Louise Agostino, fled to Greece in July and remains there with him. In December, Westpac added Agostino to its case, alleging she was part of a conspiracy to defraud the bank while she worked at Forum Finance.
Agostino’s lawyer, Robert Ishak, told the court last week that she intends to defend herself and will return to Australia for an October hearing, or be cross-examined remotely before then, the Herald reported. Lee issued freezing orders on Agostino’s Australian assets following a request from Westpac in January. About $50,000 was made available for her to fund her case, but last week her legal team sought access to additional funds.