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The anatomy of a conman

By Bernie Matthews - posted Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Globe-trotting Australian con man and serial fraudster, Peter Foster, swapped his Port Vila prison cell for a Queensland one when he was deported from Vanuatu on February 5, 2007.

His deportation foiled Fijian authorities who sought his extradition to try him for involvement in a fraud against a Micronesian bank and plots to discredit a Fiji resort developer. Although Foster eluded the clutches of Fiji’s military dictatorship from claiming his scalp he was unable to fly under the radar of Australian Federal Police who were waiting for him at Brisbane airport when his plane touched down.

He was charged with money laundering offences and returned to the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre outside Brisbane.


Foster’s pursuit of the dollar has enmeshed an international cast of characters, some unwittingly, as he blatantly secured multi-million dollar sales for his snake oil slimming remedies. Although Foster’s devious sales techniques resulted in imprisonment in Britain, Australia and the US, there was always a plethora of gullible investors ready to inflate his bank account after he was released from prison.

His publicised dalliances with model and singer Samantha Fox, lifestyle guru Carole Caplin and Gold Coast stripper Cassandra Caita-Mandra, added to the womanising playboy persona.

Foster achieved international notoriety as the central character in the 2002 “Cheriegate” affair in which the wife of British PM, Cherie Blair, lied about her association with the conman after he acted as her advisor and negotiated the purchase of two Bristol flats. The scandal forced his eviction from Britain.

In 2005 The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission hauled Foster into Federal Court over his involvement with Chaste Corporation, a company he designed and controlled from a prison cell that marketed a phony diet pill called TRIMit. Justice Spender scathingly criticised Foster’s “sad and lengthy history of dishonesty, deception and evasion” before fining him $150 000.

The Teflon coated fraudster skated to freedom and headed to Fiji with a get-rich-quick scheme aimed at Fiji’s resort industry.

Those plans collapsed in October 2006 when Foster was charged with fabricating a Queensland police report designed to give the impression he had no criminal record in Australia. He was also charged with fraudulently obtaining loans from the Federated States of Micronesia and impersonating a rival developer to discredit a resort development in the Yasawa Islands.


Freed on bail, Foster struck a deal with military commander and self-appointed president, Frank Bainimarama, who led a military coup ousting Fiji’s elected Government of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase. The deal involved Foster clandestinely video-taping conversations with prominent members of Qarase’s former government in a covert operation designed to expose entrenched corruption and vote rigging.

In January 2007 Foster sneaked out of Fiji aboard a converted RAN mine-sweeping vessel. Shortly after his arrival in Vanuatu he was arrested and imprisoned awaiting deportation.

In an attempt to curry favour with authorities Foster proposed to set up the crew of Retriever 1 whom he claimed were drug smugglers. The boat’s owner, Kel Walker, is another Gold Coast conman who was imprisoned for a $380,000 Queensland Workcover fraud in the 1990s and befriended Foster in prison. But for Foster friendship is an expendable commodity in all his pursuits.

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First published as ‘When Make-Believe Maketh the Man’ in The Sun-Herald  on February 11, 2007.

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About the Author

Bernie Matthews is a convicted bank robber and prison escapee who has served time for armed robbery and prison escapes in NSW (1969-1980) and Queensland (1996-2000). He is now a journalist. He is the author of Intractable published by Pan Macmillan in November 2006.

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