Forum Group enters administration amid CEO’s $ 250 million Westpac fraud allegations


Bill Papas (Forum Group)

Credit: Forum Groupe

The founder of Sydney-based managed services provider Forum Group, Bill Papas, is said to have “disappeared” following an investigation by Westpac into allegations of fraud totaling more than $ 250 million.

On July 2, Westpac told its shareholders that it had initiated Federal Court proceedings against Forum Finance “over the discovery of a significant potential fraud” of approximately $ 200 million after tax, the extent of the loss depending on the outcome of its investigations and its recovery. Actions.

Forum Finance and Forum Group are both owned by Papas, but are managed as separate entities.

“The potential fraud concerns a portfolio of equipment rentals with Westpac clients organized by Forum Finance, who were referred to Westpac’s institutional bank,” Westpac told shareholders at the time. “While investigations are ongoing and NSW Police, ASIC and APRA have been notified, at this point it appears that no Westpac customer has suffered any financial loss.”

As a result, Westpac obtained freeze orders and, along with the Federal Court, agreed to appoint Jason Ireland and Jason Preston of McGrathNicol as liquidators of Forum Finance on July 9 to investigate its assets and liabilities.

All of Papas’ businesses were placed under administration on the same day, with the appointment of Domenico Calabretta, Thyge Trafford-Jones and Grahame Ward of Mackay Goodwin.

The first meeting of creditors will be held on July 20.

Administration impacts the Forum Group of Companies, which is considered the parent company of a series of entities, including Forum Group; Forum fleet; Financial services of the Forum group; Aramia Holdings; Autonomous energy; Direct Forum; Environment Forum; Imagetec Financial Services; Imagetec solutions; Intrashield investment group; Iugis waste solutions; OneSource Australia; Orca environmental solutions; Orca Enviro Systems; Intelligent fleet management; Spartan consultation group; and Eros Management.

According to ABC, The discovery of the alleged fraud came after a Westpac customer noticed an anomaly in a rental agreement bearing his name.

As Westpac further investigated the matter, she found that in three years she had paid Forum $ 254.5 million in transactions involving “falsified” leases for office equipment like computers. , photocopiers and printers.

Since the initial investigation was reported by Westpac, Papas would not have been heard from or seen since; even his lawyer cannot explain where he is.

Vince Tesoriero was also on Forum Finance’s board of directors, according to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), but according to his lawyer he resigned in April 2020.

In September last year, Tecala and Forum Group entered into a partnership that saw the two managed service companies exchange services, tapping into the talent pool between the two.

At the time, Papas said the partnership completed a multi-million dollar growth strategy for Forum Group, which has made numerous acquisitions over the years.

The acquisitions included companies such as national managed service provider SmartPrint, Imagetec, Crown Business Solutions, Chilliprint, QBM and Agem Printing.

Forum, which was founded in 2011, has offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth as well as a growing regional dealer network, reaching over 4,000 clients including Findex, HWL Ebsworth Lawyers and Cerebral Palsy Australia.

On his LinkedIn profile, Papas says Forum Group was a $ 58 million company growing in international markets.

Tecala CEO Pieter DeGunst said RNA, it had a benchmark partnership agreement in place for about a year, and it hasn’t caught up with Forum, nor any trade exposure for Tecala or its associated clients.

“All current customer and prospect projects continue their direct relationship with Tecala,” said DeGunst. “We had no indication of wrongdoing, we received the information through the press and it was the first time that we became aware of any problems.

“We acted immediately by terminating our partnership and contacting customers and prospects to explain the situation and Tecala’s actions to them.”

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