Forum Finance CEO and soccer heavyweight Bill Papas will face Westpac in the Federal Court tomorrow on major fraud allegations, although it is still unclear whether Mr Papas will physically attend the hearing.
Westpac has taken civil legal action against leasing group Forum Finance and Mr Papas, relating to alleged fraud in excess of $294 million.
Westpac is making submissions to the Federal Court and is requesting the appointment of a provisional liquidator to Forum Finance.
Forum and Mr Papas’ barristers are claiming provisional liquidation was unnecessary given there were asset freezing orders already in place connected to Forum and Mr Papas, however Judge Michael Lee would not delay tomorrow’s hearing.
Mr Papas is yet to file a defence to the court, and his return to Australia to front the fraud allegations is uncertain, given inquiries made about his flight itinerary.
Mr Papas’ solicitor Rocco Panetta told the court on Wednesday his client was committed to returning to Australia to address the serious fraud allegations and would arrive on Saturday.
“I understand he’s in Europe and in transit making his way back to Australia … I understand he was in Greece, I don’t know where he is now. I think he is moving to other countries to make his way back here,” Mr Panetta told the court.
“He sent me a screenshot of his booking, his flight booking … He’s (Mr Papas) said to be (flying) Japan Airways from Dubai to Sydney, coming back Saturday. It says on this itinerary from Athens”.
When asked about the flight numbers and times, Mr Panetta said the screenshot did not show those details of Mr Papas’ flights.
GCT has made enquiries on Japan Airlines flights online and contacted the airline, with no indication of upcoming scheduled flights from Athens to Dubai and then to Sydney. This raises questions around Mr Papas’ itinerary.
On Wednesday, two days before the scheduled hearing, Justice Michael Lee noted “curious aspects” of Mr Panetta’s statements and emphasised Mr Papas had already missed several court deadlines. He said Mr. Papas could participate in proceedings with the court electronically on Friday to express arguments in his defence, or on the appointment of provisional liquidators.
Justice Lee also made an order restricting Forum representatives “from deleting or altering”, other than in the usual course of business, any data held on servers that may be relevant to the court case.
On Wednesday, Mr Panetta said Mr Papas would not disclose his exact location.
“Presently the solicitor understands that Mr Papas has an intention to return, and this intention has been confirmed by somebody described as his girlfriend,” the judge added.
“But we are left at present in the position that Mr Papas is somewhere in Europe, yet refuses to tell even his solicitor his location”.
Mr Papas is expected to return to Australia on Saturday, after being uncontactable by Westpac since mid-June.