Bill Papas, the man accused of defrauding Westpac, Société Générale and Sumitomo out of $400 million, has said he has been suffering from “extreme anxiety and panic attacks” as a result of being sued.
- Westpac, Société Générale and Sumitomo allegedly lost $400m due to fraud
- They allege the culprit is Forum Finance, run by Sydney businessman Bill Papas
- Mr Papas claims that he contracted COVID-19
“It has made it extremely difficult for me to attend to the things required of me,” he also said in affidavits filed with the Federal Court last week.
The alleged fraudster — and former president of Sydney Olympic Football Club — is currently in Greece and was supposed to return to Australia in early July to defend the allegations made against him.
But he did not end up boarding a flight home (reportedly booked by his girlfriend Louise Agostino), claiming to have contracted COVID-19.
It now turns out that Ms Agostino had secured a travel exemption and flown to Greece to “assist” 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.”
Not as wealthy as Westpac claims?
In his affidavit, Mr Papas (whose real name is Basile Papadimitriou) also said that he owned about $266,000 worth of assets.
They included three jet skis, a camping trailer sitting at his multi-million-dollar property on the NSW Central Coast, $100 worth of shares (in 10 Australian companies), and $206,000 cash sitting in his NAB bank account, he said.
He also apologised for repeatedly failing to comply with court orders (to disclose what assets he owns) because: “I have an older laptop with me that has at times been unable to open large documents.”
The businessman finally provided his affidavits last week, after Justice Michael Lee threatened there would be consequences if he did not, in light of what the judge called his “long-standing flouting of court orders”.
However, Mr Papas also said in his affidavit that he sold his shares in Mazcon Investments in March — the company through which he owns most of his valuable foreign assets (including 94 per cent of the Greek soccer club Xanthi FC, and a property portfolio in the seaside Greek town of Thessaloniki).
Westpac’s barrister, Jeremy Giles SC, had “grave concerns” about the veracity of Mr Papas’s statements about his wealth.
“We simply don’t accept that 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.”
In contrast, his business partner Vicenzo Tesoriero (also a defendant in this lawsuit) disclosed that he owned $60.7 million worth of property (funded by mortgages totalling $44.2 million), a Porche Cayenne and vintage Chevrolet luxury cars.
Mr Tesoriero is currently listed as a fellow director, according to the records of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
But his barrister previously argued that ASIC’s records were not reflective of the true situation. He said Mr Tesoriero had resigned in April 2020, but that the regulator had not received the notice.
Ranking high in the ‘catalogue of corporate misfeasance’
The Greek-Australian businessman also said that he was a shareholder and director of several companies across New Zealand, Singapore, Germany, Greece and the UK. But he claimed he was unable to value those assets because he did not have access to company records.
It was a stark contrast from Westpac’s allegation that Mr Papas had his company, Forum Finance, swindled the bank out of $290 million through 100 fraudulent transactions (between September 2018 and June 2021).
Australia’s second-largest bank said in its statement of claim that the Greek-Australian businessman had used some of that money to buy properties across NSW, Victoria and Queensland worth more than $35.6 million (owned by companies that 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”.
He also said that Mr Papas “appears to be primarily responsible” for the scheme, which involved forged signatures and fake invoices.