Conman Peter Foster who made a fortune selling bogus weight loss products and who gained notoriety in Vanuatu when he was put ashore from the MV “Retriever I” at Tamanu, South Efate in early January 2007 after being smuggled out of Fiji, has been released from a Brisbane prison 12 months into an 18 month jail term for Contempt of Court.
Both the Gold Coast Bulletin and the Courier mail report that Federal Court Justice John Logan ¬ordered Foster’s immediate release after his lawyers made secret submissions on why he should go free. The early release was all the more amazing since when, in Foster’s absence on October 24, 2013, Justice Logan sentenced him to prison Foster said the judge should “stick his sentence up his jacksie”.
Foster’s barrister Saul Holt QC told the court this week there was a new development in Foster’s conduct that could be detailed only behind closed doors but was ‘of a kind worthy of recognition’.
The lawyer had originally asked that the entire session be held in a closed court to which Justice Logan said ‘We don’t have secret justice in Australia’.
However Mr Holt said ‘the stakes were too high for Foster for it to be heard in open court and that the reality for him is that the risk of any knowledge of these matters … is likely to have profound consequences’.
Following the hearing Justice Logan published a judgment with pages of blacked-out paragraphs and strict suppression orders about the reasons for release.
Foster’s former lawyer Sean Cousins, who alleged in November 2013 that Foster threatened to kill him, said his former client ‘had mastered the art of escaping jail by becoming a prison informant. He tells police stories about people who are in jail with him and he becomes a prison informant,’ he said. ‘I have been told by people close to him that he was worried that if he stayed in prison much longer, certain prisoners would find out and kill him.’
Which potential course of events could be considered similar to the reasons Foster left Fiji in a hurry back in 2007 when he had fallen out of favour with both sides of post-coup Fiji politics and claimed to fear for his life.
His arrest in October 2014 stemmed from his involvement in the sale of a diet spray called SensaSlim via investors he had roped in as the ‘face’ of the company while Foster ran it from behind the scenes at a time when he was banned by the Courts from participating in the weight loss industry. Hence the original contempt charges.
Having failed to turn up for consecutive Court appearances, thus incurring a further contempt conviction, the self-styled “International Man of Mischief”, who has been jailed on several continents, claimed to be seeking asylum in Fiji and sent photos which he said proved his whereabouts. They were of himself with Fijian newspapers, a kava bowl and a bottle of Fiji water to Australian newspapers. However, he had never left Australia, all these things being easily available for posed photographs if one who has spent time in Fiji cares to accumulate them.
On October 28, 2014, after having been on the run for a year, Foster was eventually captured on the NSW north coast at a house in Byron Bay from which he was unceremoniously dragged, overweight and dishevelled.
Interestingly, Foster’s affiliation with Vanuatu may not have ended with his deportation from Port Vila on February 5, 2007 (straight into the arms of Brisbane police who arrested him on money laundering charges, subsequently proven, for bringing into Australia more than A$300,000 he had fraudulently obtained from the Bank of the Federated States of Micronesia) after he served three weeks of a six week sentence in Stade prison for entering Vanuatu illegally following his seaborne exploits with “Retriever I”.
During Foster’s arrest at Byron Bay computers were found that implicated him in an allegedly fraudulent online betting company called Sports Trading Club Limited which punters say has failed to pay money owing to them for winning bets or refund money they have placed into accounts with the company.
Vanuatu Financial Services Commission records show that an International company called SensaSlim (Suisse) Limited was set up by a firm of local lawyers in September 2009. It changed its name to Sports Trading Club Limited on January 24, 2013.
Vanuatu Financial Intelligence Unit is currently investigating this remarkable coincidence.
After his release this week 53 year-old Foster refused to answer questions about his many scams or to apologise to his victims. He did, however, thank Justice Logan praising him as “a courageous judge, a compassionate judge”. Not something Foster would have been previously likely to say of the same judge who said of Foster, who likes to portray himself as a loveable rogue, that he “wore his reputation like a badge of honour [but] the offences were not victimless crimes. It’s a case where there is a complete absence of remorse. It is sophisticated and it is certainly cynical. It’s subterfuge. It’s deliberate. Which makes it all the harder to prove. It’s not just contempt of our system of justice. It’s also resonated with individual Australians”.
Speaking to reporters after his release Foster said: “It’s a bit early in the day for a lap dance.
“So I think I’ll just go home to my mum, who he said had suffered a fifth heart attack while he was in jail, make a cup of tea, hold her hand and tell her I’m sorry for the last 12 months.
“She hasn’t been well and I’m very happy to be able to spend some much-needed time with her.”
One cannot help but wonder if over that cuppa she might mention the A$125,000 (Vt 11 million) bail she was forced to surrender when her loving son failed to turn up to Court for the second time in less than a month in 2013.