The owner had refused to divulge his location even to his lawyer
The Sydney football entrepreneur mired in allegations of a $250 million Westpac fraud is reportedly heading back to Australia.
Basil Papadimitrou, also known as Bill Papas, has reportedly booked a return flight from Europe, according to a report by The Sydney Morning Herald. Westpac had been unable to contact Papas since mid-June.
The bank disclosed last week that it was investigating a potential fraud after discovering loans that had been given to its corporate customers using forged signatures and phony invoices allegedly produced by Forum Finance, a Sydney company owned by Papas, who also recently bought Xanthi Football Club. Westpac said it has not been able to reach Papas since June 15, after it made inquiries about the issue, the Herald reported.
Westpac has issued freeze orders and search warrants in relation to the potential fraud and is pursuing legal action to have Forum Finance put into provisional liquidation.
Papas’ attorney, Rocco Panetta, told the court Wednesday that he had spoken to Papas several times over the past week, the Herald reported. He said that Papas had refused to disclose his exact location or say whether he intended to defend himself against the allegation. However, Panetta said that Papas had booked a flight from Athens and is due to arrive in Australia on Saturday.
“I understand he’s in Europe, in transit, making his way back to Australia,” Panetta said. “I understand he was in Greece. I don’t know where he is now, but I think he is moving through other countries to make his way back here.”
When asked about Papas’ current location and when and why he left Australia, Panetta told the court that Papas had stonewalled him.
“We did ask,” he said. “He wouldn’t tell us.”
Lawyer Jeremy Giles SC, acting for Westpac, told the court that the bank had not obtained sufficient assurances from Papas or Forum Finance that no relevant documents had been destroyed, the Herald reported. He asked the court to act quickly in putting Forum Finance into provisional liquidation.
“There are some 96 or 97 contracts … almost all of them are false, in the sense that they are not signed by the counterparty,” Giles told the court. “The counterparty hasn’t got the equipment; it hasn’t been making payments on it. This is a case of quite serious dishonesty in the amount of circa $250 million. In those circumstances, there should be no delay."
Federal Court Justice Michael Lee has not made a decision on the liquidation application, but did reject an application to adjourn the Friday hearing, according to the Herald.
“We are left at present in the position that Mr Papas is somewhere in Europe, yet refuses to tell even his solicitor his location,” Lee said. “With what might be described as a somewhat unfortunate lack of curiosity, it is apparent that no real inquiry has been made as to whether Mr Papas has a defence to the current allegations made against him.”
Westpac claims that at least seven of its major clients – including Coles, Woolworths, Veolia, and WesTrac – have been mired in the fraud, which the banks said could cost it hundreds of millions of dollars.
Papas was ousted from his role as Sydney Olympic president last week due to the allegations, the Herald reported.