A court has heard Forum Finance boss, Bill Papas, who is at the centre of the alleged $250 million Westpac fraud, has booked a flight to return to Australia from Europe on Saturday, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.
Westpac announced it was investigating a potential serious fraud on Friday, after it said it had discovered loans had been given to its corporate customers using forged signatures and falsified invoices allegedly produced by Forum Finance.
Westpac alleges that it has not been able to contact Mr Papas since June 15, soon after it made inquiries about the potential fraud, the SMH reports.
Panetta Lawyers principal, Rocco Panetta, who has been hired by Mr Papas, told the court on Wednesday he had spoken to his client around five times over the past seven days.
According to the SMH, Mr Panetta said Mr Papas had refused to disclose his exact location or explain whether he intended to defend the allegations against him, but that he had booked a Japan Airways flight back from Athens via Dubai to arrive in Australia on Saturday.
“I understand he’s in Europe, in transit, making his way back to Australia,” Mr 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 pressed for details of Mr Papas’ overseas travel, including when and why he left Australia and his current location, Mr Panetta said he was stonewalled.
“We did ask, he wouldn’t tell us,” Mr Panetta said.
Westpac has issued freeze orders and search warrants to obtain information related to the alleged fraud, and is now pursuing legal action to have Forum Finance put into provisional liquidation, an emergency measure to protect assets, the SMH reports.
Federal Court Justice, Michael Lee, said he had not made a final decision on the liquidation application, which presented a “serious intrusion” into a company’s affairs but rejected the application to adjourn the Friday hearing.
Mr Papas has been director of Forum Finance since 2011, a Sydney-based firm that leases equipment and provides digital and administration services to third parties.
A number of clients contacted by The Age and Herald, including NYSE-listed manufacturing firm Boston Scientific, said they were surprised by the lawsuit.
“We’ve never experienced any real issues at all,” said Boston Scientific Australian managing director, Martin Baker.
“We use them for pretty basic administration services, like printer management. It’s one of those things where if you’re horrendous at it, you notice but if they do it well, you don’t notice.”
The case continues.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald.