Bill Papas, the Greek-Australian businessman at the centre of $400 million fraud allegations, has finally broken his silence after failing to meet multiple court deadlines.
Affidavits filed with the Federal Court on Wednesday reveal Mr Papas has been suffering from “extreme anxiety and panic attacks” since being hit with claims he defrauded Westpac. “It has made it extremely difficult for me to attend to the things required of me,” Papas said in an affidavit filed with the Federal Court on Wednesday.
These documents detail the first public statements made by Mr Papas following sensational allegations that Forum Finance and Bill Papas defrauded the bank of nearly $285 million. Mr Papas apologised for missing multiple court deadlines that he said was “due to health issues principally around contracting SARS-COVID-19…where I suffered symptoms of extreme exhaustion and fever”.
Mr Papas is currently in Greece and was supposed to return to Australia in early July to defend the allegations made against him. It was later revealed his girlfriend Louise Agostino, had instead secured a travel exemption and travelled to Greece to support Mr Papas with his mental health issues.
“Until recently, I have been alone in Greece and in isolation which has been extremely difficult for me and my mental and physical health,” he said. “Since her arrival, my health has improved”.
In his affidavit, Mr Papas also declared he owned around $266,000 worth of assets, which included three jet skis, a camping trailer, $100 worth of shares and deposit funds of $206,000 held in a NAB bank account.
Mr Papas also apologised for repeatedly failing to comply with court orders because: “I have an older laptop with me that has at times been unable to open large documents.”
Mr Papas stated in his affidavit that he sold his shares in Mazcon Investments in March, the entity through which he owns his most valuable foreign assets, including 94% of Greek football club Xanthi FC and properties in the Greek city of Thessaloniki.
Westpac’s barrister, Jeremy Giles SC, had “grave concerns” about the validity of Mr Papas’ statement of assets. “We simply don’t accept this as an accurate statement, and we will in due course lead evidence of payments out of the Forum Group Financial Services account to Mazcon of circa $2 million in mid-June this year.”
Westpac, Australia’s oldest bank, claims Forum Finance and Mr Papas, defrauded the bank out of $290 million through 100 fraudulent transactions between September 2018 and June 2021.
Westpac said in its statement of claim that Mr Papas has used some of these funds to purchase properties across NSW, Victoria and Queensland worth more than $35.6 million, which are owned by companies he “directly or indirectly owns and controls”.
In a court hearing last month, Justice Michael Lee called Forum’s scheme a “long running, calculated and elaborate fraud that would rank high in the catalogue of corporate misfeasance”.
Justice Lee also said that Mr Papas “appears to be primarily responsible” for the scheme, which involved forged signatures and falsified documents.