The former head of collapsed trucking company the Viking Group has been accused of being involved in an $86 million fraud and of having strong links to outlaw bikie gangs which could help him flee the country.
Steve Iliopoulos, 51, appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court yesterday and was charged with three counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception that relate to $33.55 million and one count of attempting to obtain a financial advantage by deception of $53 million.
Iliopoulos headed up the Viking Group of more than 20 companies, which operated a number of heavy haulage, transport and service businesses. It had 300 staff and collapsed in 2011.
He now operates Bronco Transport and police claim Iliopoulos used false information to fleece the Commonwealth Bank for $12.15 million on one occasion, $17.4 million on another occasion, then another $4 million and $30 million.
Police say Iliopoulos also entered into negotiations with Westpac where he attempted to obtain a further $53 million.
Police argued Iliopoulos’ bikie links meant he could get access to a fake passport and his contacts in the transport industry meant he could flee Australia by boat.
Police say one of Iliopoulos’ close associates is the cousin of the president of the Comanchero motor cycle gang.
The police told the court Iliopoulos has “real and substantial links to the Comancheros”.
Police claim at the time of the Viking Group’s collapse, in excess of 500 pieces of commercially hired plant and equipment including trucks and trailers were in the possession or control of Iliopoulos and Iliopoulos went with a group of family, associates and members of the Comancheros to stop police recovering the property.
“[Iliopoulos] and his associates besieged the gates of the premises preventing the entrance and exit of the liquidator. [Iliopoulos] was arrested for hinder[ing] police,” the court heard.
“Further attempts to recover property throughout Australia, in particular Victoria and Tasmania were hampered by [Comancheros] members moving the property and intimidating repossession staff.”
Police also argued they feared for the safety of witnesses in the case and that they have detailed eyewitness evidence of Iliopoulos being in possession of knuckle-dusters, knives and a taser.
Magistrate Peter Reardon refused bail and remanded Iliopoulos to reappear for a committal mention hearing in July.
Iliopoulos’ barrister, Daniel Porceddu, told SmartCompany he was unable to make any comment at this stage of the proceedings.
“The matters are going to be tested before the courts and we are just going to wait for the outcome,” he says.