Federal Court judge Michael Lee has ordered Forum Finance, which is at the centre of an alleged $294 million fraud against Australia’s second largest bank Westpac, to be placed into liquidation, while the exact location of its football personality director Bill Papas remains unspecified.
Sydney-based Forum Finance allegedly used false invoices and forged signatures to obtain Westpac loans without the consent of at least seven of the major bank’s corporate clients. Westpac has pursued legal action to have the company liquidated in the hope of recouping some of its losses that could run up to $294 million from alleged fraudulent invoices and leases and missing goods.
Justice Lee considered the dealings of Forum Finance a “long running, calculated and elaborate” fraud, as he appointed liquidators McGrathNicol to the equipment leasing group.
In a case hearing today, Justice Lee was disdainful on the dealings of Forum. “It is not an overstatement to remark that it appears that Forum Finance has, by some means or another, been involved in a long-running, calculated and elaborate fraud which would rank high in the catalogue of corporate misfeasance,” Justice Lee said.
“We’ve not heard from the man who appears to be primarily responsible, at least until recent times, for the conduct of the affairs of Forum Finance, the apparently peripatetic Mr Papas who left Australia for Europe for reasons not established…but coincidence with when things started to unravel with Westpac”.
Mr Papas had pledged to return to Australia on Saturday, although Justice Lee has questioned why firm details of an itinerary were not submitted to the court.
Mr Papas has failed to file a defence or challenge any of the allegations against his company.