Court orders arrest warrant for alleged fraudster Bill Papas

The Federal Court has issued an arrest warrant for alleged fraudster Bill Papas, which will pave the way for his extradition from Greece, after he was alleged to have repeatedly disobeyed court orders, breached freezing orders and showed no intention of returning to Australia.

Justice Michael Lee issued the warrant on Wednesday to arrest and detain Mr Papas until he attends court to face charges against him, including contempt of court and “serious allegations” that he was the ringleader of a $400 million fraud against Westpac and other banks.

The Federal Court has issued a warrant to arrest Bill Papas.

This rare type of order would typically be referred to federal government agencies who would then oversee the extradition negotiations with Greece to compel Mr Papas to return to Australia, which could take months.

Justice Lee said on Wednesday the arrest warrant was necessary because Mr Papas had displayed no genuine effort to return to Australia after flying to Greece in June and had provided “less than satisfactory information to his solicitors” about his whereabouts.

The court heard Mr Papas had allegedly breached freezing orders by sending $720,000 in July to his cousin Eric Constantinidis through an online trading account called MacroVue, first revealed in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

“There is no basis, let alone a reasonable basis, for thinking Mr Papas is likely to return to Australia from Greece on any firm date,” he said. “Accordingly, I’m satisfied that I should issue a warrant for Mr Papas’ arrest and detention in custody before he is brought before the court.”

Mr Papas fled Australia in June, around the time his clients began asking questions about the alleged fraud after discovering forged signatures had been used to obtain millions of dollars in fraudulent loans though asset leasing companies associated with Forum Group.

Mr Papas told the court in July he had booked a return flight to Sydney, but ultimately never boarded after claiming he had contracted COVID-19. He then claimed he did not have enough money to buy return airfares and requested some freezing orders be lifted.

However, the court heard on Wednesday that Mr Papas had spent more than $10,000 on short stays in luxury hotels in recent months, including Hotel King GE in Athens and Danai Beach Resort, as well as business class airfares from Paris. “It does look like he was at the back of a plane. Let’s put it that way,” Justice Lee said.

Justice Lee said it was clear Mr Papas had left the country “amidst and intention not to return in the near future” and his lavish spending patterns, detailed in American Express records, indicated he had lied about not being able to afford a flight back to Australia.

“Mr Papas upon his entry into Greece in mid-June did not behave like a man who was short of funds… I’m certainly satisfied on the evidence that if he wished to return to Australia, he would have access to funds to allow him to do so.”

Paul Hayes QC, representing Mr Papas’ business partner Vince Tesoriero who is also being sued by Westpac, sought to prevent two companies in the Forum group from being liquidated after he claimed the companies had between $8 million and $10 million worth of assets.

Counsel for liquidators, Nick Kidd, SC, said regardless of these assets the companies were “hopelessly insolvent”, with liabilities exceeding assets “by a far substantial number than that”.

Mr Hayes, who was brought into the case in recent days, claimed Mr Tesoriero was keen to participate in the court proceedings. “Unlike Mr Papas who is in Greece, He’s here to face the music and intends to do so.”

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