The colourful soccer identity and business partner accused of defrauding Westpac by almost $400 million allegedly funnelled tens of millions of dollars of proceeds into high end residential properties in Melbourne and near Sydney and a portfolio of petrol stations in small Victorian towns.
The alleged $360 million fraud by Bill Papas’ Forum Finance against Westpac has been described by a judge as “a long-running, calculated and elaborate fraud which would rank high in the catalogue of corporate misfeasance”. The fraud is alleged to have been conducted between 2018 and 2021.
The Sydney-based group held itself out to be a major player in the equipment leasing world before its demise into court-directed liquidation this month amid serious fraud allegations by Westpac. The Federal Court has heard that 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 aired the allegations when it took civil action in the Federal Court to freeze the assets of Mr Papas, his business partner Vincenzo Tesoriero and their companies. Mr Papas is in Greece and is yet to return to face the allegations, with his lawyer revealing this week that the 49 year old had tested positive for COVID-19.
The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald can reveal that entities set up by Mr Vincenzo Tesoriero purchased several petrol stations, most for more than $1 million, in tiny country towns in Victoria during 2019 and 2020.
One petrol station, in Violet Town – a hamlet in Victoria’s north that is bypassed by the Hume Highway and has a population of 1,540 people – was purchased for $3.5 million, according to land title records.
Mr Tesoriero’s entities also bought the bait and tackle shop in the East Gippsland holiday town of Mallacoota, which has a few petrol pumps, as well as petrol stations in other towns including Ouyen (population 1,045), Derrinallum (pop. 557), Dimboola (pop. 1,424), Taradale (pop. 448) and Lake Boga (pop. 985).
The transactions only apply to the land underpinning the businesses, the actual petrol stations are owned by a corporate entity with no association with Mr Papas, Mr Tesoriero or Forum Finance. None of the operators or these stations, nor the vendors are involved in the Forum scheme and were merely sellers of property that was already advertised for sale.
Mr Tesoriero’s companies purchased many of the petrol stations from high profile Melbourne lawyer Konfir Kabo, who is a well known commercial property investor. The sales were part of a $60 million portfolio that Mr Kabo was selling during 2018 and 2019.