Westpac ‘not holding breath’ on alleged fraudster’s return to Australia, court hears

Lane SaintyNCA NewsWire
Forum Finance director Bill Papas is being pursued by Westpac in the Federal Court over an alleged $400 million fraud.
Camera IconForum Finance director Bill Papas is being pursued by Westpac in the Federal Court over an alleged $400 million fraud. Credit: Supplied

Westpac will have to translate court documents into Greek and send them to a bailiff in Athens in order to serve companies the bank claims are involved in an alleged $400 million fraud orchestrated by Sydney soccer identity Bill Papas.

The major bank is pursuing Mr Papas and his company Forum Finance in the Federal Court over allegations the former owner of Sydney Olympic FC forged contracts to swindle millions from Westpac and two international lenders.

“Much as I’d like to have a better way of effecting service in Greece, we just don’t think there is,” Westpac’s barrister Jeremy Giles SC told the court on Wednesday.

But the need for a Greek translation is just one of many difficulties plaguing the complicated case.

Chief among them is the fact Mr Papas remains in Greece, where he was recently spotted kicking back and watching his soccer club Xanthi — which Westpac claims he bought with profits from the alleged fraud — beat Olympiakos 3-1.

Supplied Editorial
Camera IconBill Papas was spotted at a soccer match in Greece on the weekend. Credit: Supplied

Asked when Mr Papas would return, Mr Giles said those on his side were “not holding their breath”.

Meanwhile, Mr Papas’s lawyer Rocco Panetta has filed a notice of intent to stop acting in the case and was absent from Wednesday’s virtual hearing until Justice Michael Lee ordered him onto Microsoft Teams, declaring he would adjourn the hearing until the solicitor arrived.

After receiving the judge’s message and overcoming some technical problems, Mr Panetta informed the court Mr Papas had to cancel his flight because of Covid-19, could not afford another ticket, and was, regardless, stymied by the current caps on people entering Australia.

The court also heard Westpac is struggling to decide whether to add more parties that allegedly received fraudulent funds to the already large case, in which Justice Lee has requested an A3 sheet of paper depicting a “schematic representation of the state of play”.

And the new lawyer for co-defendant Vincenzo Tesoriero said his client’s previous firm is refusing to hand over documents until Mr Tesoriero stumps up roughly $300,000 in costs incurred so far — a sum Justice Lee described as “remarkable”, given he is yet to file a defence.

“Where do we go from here?” the judge asked at one point during the hour-long hearing.

Mr Papas, also known as Basile Papadimitriou, cannot afford a flight home, his lawyer told the court.
Camera IconMr Papas, also known as Basile Papadimitriou, cannot afford a flight home, his lawyer told the court. Credit: Supplied

Mr Giles said Westpac was “wrestling” with the difficult choice of whether to add more parties that had allegedly received fraudulent funds to the case, or just proceed with the ones it has already.

One on hand, Mr Giles said, was the need to move the case forward quickly, and on the other, the prospect of essentially re-running the same case down the track.

“We must be getting to the stage where they’ve at least identified the recipients of the money, surely,” Justice Lee said.

“The immediate recipients, yes,” Mr Giles answered.

Justice Lee asked if it was likely more would be added.

“Something more than possible and something less than certain. So yes, likely. Likely in that range. Probably more likely than not, but not saying that with any overwhelming certainty,” Mr Giles said.

Justice Lee said he had intended to hear the case this year, a hope that was quickly evaporating.

“I have real difficulties next year with very long hearings and I’m quite happy for someone else to deal with this,” he said.

“More than happy might be an appropriate expression.”

But, the judge said, he’d like to “bring it in for a landing” if possible this year.

Justice Lee suggested the liquidator appointed to Forum Finance may be able to assist Mr Papas to buy a ticket to Australia.

“Whether or not that is the only issue is no doubt something that would become apparent if that is resolved,” he said.

The case returns to court on October 1.

Originally published as Westpac ‘not holding breath’ on alleged fraudster’s return to Australia, court hears

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