Westpac Loses $ 290 Million Over “Long-Lasting” “Calculated” Fraud

Westpac says it was the victim of “elaborate fraud” that cost the bank more than $ 290 million.

The alleged culprit was an equipment rental company called Forum Finance, based in North Sydney.

Its founder and director is known as Bill Papas. His real name is Basile Papadimitriou.

Mr Papas is currently overseas, but it is not known where exactly he is, even for his own lawyer. He was also chairman of the Sydney Olympic Football Club, until his resignation last week.

After discovering he was allegedly defrauded at the end of May, Westpac sued Forum, Mr Papas and co-director Vincenzo Tesoriero in Federal Court.

At a hearing Friday, Judge Michael Lee took the extraordinary step of ordering Forum’s liquidation, given that there were “real questions” about its creditworthiness.

He also appointed the insolvency firm McGrath Nicol to be the liquidator of the company.

The judge also said: “There are real concerns about Mr. Papas’ ability to discharge his duties as a director of Forum Finance in a manner consistent with the legitimate conduct of the business of the company, if the company were to continue to negotiate in some form. “

Westpac has successfully applied for the liquidation of Forum Finance.(

ABC News: Sarah Motherwell

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How did it happen?

In May, one of Westpac’s clients discovered “an anomaly” in a rental agreement with his (client’s) name on it.

“Weeks later, equipment contracts were provided to Westpac by Forum Finance, the veracity of which was doubtful,” according to the facts read by Judge Lee.

Westpac investigated the case and found that in less than three years it had paid Forum $ 254.5 million – for various leases of office equipment such as computers, copiers and printers. .

“A large part” of these transactions were identified as “a forgery”, according to the evidence undisputed before the judge.

Mr Papas did not attend any of the hearings leading up to Friday’s court ruling.

“In these proceedings, neither Forum Finance nor its directors have provided an explanation, convincing or otherwise, of what appears to have happened,” added Judge Lee.

“It appears that Forum Finance is not offering to provide any explanation.”

Mr. Tesoriero is currently registered as a director of the company, according to the records of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

But his lawyer argued that the ASIC records did not reflect the real situation. He said Mr Tesoriero resigned in April 2020, but the notice was not provided to the regulator.

The court did not rule on Mr Tesoriero’s resignation request. But if that’s correct, that means Mr. Papas is the sole director of Forum.

High ranking fraud

The Federal Court provided a damning assessment of the company and its missing director.

“It is no exaggeration to note that it appears that Forum Finance has, in one way or another, been involved in a long-standing, calculated and elaborate fraud that is said to feature prominently in the catalog of mischief. business, ”Judge Lee said.

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“We have not heard from the man who appears to be primarily responsible, at least until recently, for the conduct of Forum Finance’s business.

“Despite two legal delays, it failed to comply with disclosure orders under the Evidence Act, and Forum also failed to provide details of its assets and liabilities.”

He was particularly unhappy that Mr. Papas’ lawyers could not explain his whereabouts.

The judge said Mr Papas’ lawyers told him he was “somewhere on the European continent, en route to the Greek capital of Athens, with no itinerary provided”, and that he was presumably on a flight Japan Airlines.

“Mr Papas may return to Australia tomorrow. At present, it is not entirely clear.”

Mr. Papas and Forum have been contacted for comment.


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