Serial conman Peter Foster was the alleged “decision maker” at a sports betting company that defrauded a least one investor of $1.5 million and funnelled $32 million into offshore accounts.
Police are now trying to trace and freeze at least some of those millions following the notorious fraudster’s arrest on the Gold Coast on Friday.
Foster is accused of falsely using the alias “Mark Hughes” in 2013 as he encouraged a South African-born investor to deposit money into accounts, including one offshore, supposedly associated with Sports Trading Club.
After a weekend in a Queensland watch house, detectives escorted Foster on Monday on a flight bound for Sydney, where he is facing seven fraud offences.
The 54-year-old didn’t come up from the cells when his case was mentioned briefly in Waverley Local Court on Tuesday morning.
His chequered history, including time spent behind bars and spruiking bogus weight loss products, is unlikely to favour any future bid he makes for bail.
Foster, who lives between Byron Bay and the upmarket Sovereign Island in Queensland, was part of the weight loss scam SensaSlim. In 2005 he was banned from having any involvement in the industry.
During the 1980s he persuaded topless model and pop singer Samantha Fox and the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, to promote his product Bai Lin tea, which falsely claimed to promote weight loss and wellbeing.
The most recent allegations involve Foster calling himself “Mark Hughes” as he allegedly encouraged a man from Western Australia to invest in STC in 2013.
After seeing an advertisement in a newspaper, Foster’s alleged victim contacted STC, spoke with Foster and made an initial deposit of $150,000 in February, 2013, police allege.
The man was in daily contact with Foster and travelled to Sydney for a meeting with STC.
However when he got to the offices in May, 2013, STC staff were there but Foster was not, instead calling in via Skype.
After watching his investment grow significantly through the STC online account, the investor deposited more money.
In June 2014, the man travelled to STC offices in London for meetings about investing in the purchase of a licence for STC to operate in South Africa.
Police allege Foster wasn’t there in person but called in via a Skype video call.
Foster is accused of convincing the alleged victim to deposit $1.1 million into a Hong Kong account – Bella Developments Pty Ltd – to purchase the licence.
The man coughed up another $200,000, deposited in the STC Westpac account, after Foster “demanded” further payment, police allege.
The scheme began to unravel in August, 2013, when the director of STC sent the investor a message referring to a man called Peter Foster.
An internet search revealed a video of Foster and the victim matched that to the man he knew as Mark Hughes.
The man had deposited more than $1.5 million into STC and the Hong Kong accounts, but has not seen a cent of that money since.
Police allege another investor recorded a conversation with Foster – using the name Mark Hughes – in 2014.
This audio was used to compare to interviews Foster did with the ABC and helped police identify Foster as the conman.
Police allege that since it started, $32 million had been deposited in the STC Westpac account, with most of that funnelled into offshore accounts, court documents show.
Proceedings are underway in the NSW Supreme Court to freeze $10 million in two Hong Kong accounts after deposits were made from the STC Westpac account, based in Sydney.
It is alleged in court documents that Foster was the decision-maker in relation to STC’s activities.
Despite his history, Foster told Southport Magistrates Court on the Friday following his arrest that he was a changed man.
“My past is bad I admit, but even God can’t change the sins of the past,” Foster said from the dock.
“I’m not the person I was 20 years ago or 10 years ago.”
His case will be mentioned in Central Local Court in April.