Wed, Dec 20, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Australian conman does deal with Fiji coup leaders


Australian conman Peter Foster has done a deal with Fiji's new military regime allowing him to leave Suva in return for exposing corruption in the ousted government, a senior legal source said yesterday.

The legal source, who did not want to be named, said the weekend disappearance of Foster from a Suva hotel where he was under house arrest was done with the permission of the magistrate presiding over his case.

Foster, infamous for his links with the wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, missed a court appearance on Monday after a group of men in civilian clothing checked him out of the upmarket JJ's on the Park Hotel in Suva on Saturday night. Since then, the military and police have denied knowing the reason for the Australian's disappearance.

There have been unconfirmed reports that Foster had moved to a villa he rents at the exclusive Denarau Island resort area near Nadi, on the west of Fiji's main island Viti Levu.

He is facing charges of using forged documents to obtain a work permit and business licence in Fiji. He is also under investigation for allegedly trying to discredit a rival Fiji resort project by portraying it as a haven for pedophiles.

State prosecutors demanded to know on Monday who had allowed Foster to be removed from his Suva hotel.

Foster had applied to the court to move to his Nadi villa, complaining that he could not afford the cost of staying in the hotel, as well as the rent on the luxury villa.

The senior legal official said that magistrate John Semisi was approached last Saturday by the military authorities requesting a change in Foster's bail conditions.

The judge was told Foster had agreed to assist the military in exposing corrupt officials in the government of prime minister Laisenia Qarase, ousted in the Nov. 5 coup.

In exchange for the information, Foster requested that he be allowed to visit his elderly mother who is staying with his sister at their Denarau Island home.

Monday's court hearing was held behind closed doors, so it was unknown if Foster's absence had been explained.

However, Foster was expected to be back in court by tomorrow where Semisi is due to give his ruling on the application to change bail conditions.

Foster has been described as "Australia's greatest conman," and his career has included prison spells in Australia, Britain and the US.

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