'Cheriegate' conman Peter Foster goes 'on the run' in Australia

‘Cheriegate’ conman Peter Foster goes ‘on the run’ in Australia as warrant is issued for his arrest on fraud charges

  • Peter Foster, 58, was arrested for fraud in Queensland, Australia, last year 
  • He was extradited to New South Wales to face 16 counts, but those charges were withdrawn at a court hearing today so the case can go back to Queensland
  • Foster failed to turn up at the hearing, and his lawyer says he cannot be found 
  • The notorious conman sparked ‘Cheriegate’ in 2002 when it emerged he had helped Cherie Blair buy two houses in Bristol at a discount 

A warrant has been issued for the arrest of notorious conman Peter Foster after he went missing in Australia in the midst of a major fraud case. 

Foster had been due in court in Sydney on Thursday so that 16 fraud charges filed against him in New South Wales could be withdrawn and the case sent to the neighbouring state of Queensland for trial.

But Foster never appeared, with his lawyer forced to admit to the judge that he has no idea where the 58-year-old is.

Queensland police have now issued a warrant for Foster’s arrest, while the case against him in New South Wales has been withdrawn.

Foster rose to infamy in 2002 when he sparked ‘Cheriegate’ after it emerged he had helped then-Prime Minister Tony Blair’s wife buy two discounted houses.

Peter Foster, a notorious conman who sparked ‘Cheriegate’ in 2002, has disappeared during a trial for fraud in Australia (pictured during his arrest in August last year)

Foster is accused of stealing $2million in Bitcoin from a retired pilot in Hong Kong who thought he was investing in a sports betting scheme

Cherie initially denied Foster -already an established fraudster who had served jail time in the UK – was involved in the deal, but after the Daily Mail exposed emails between the pair she was forced to make an apology.

The latest case against Foster involves allegations the he conned $2million in Bitcoin out of a retired pilot in Hong Kong as part of a sports betting scam.

Foster – using the alias Bill Dawson – allegedly promised a series of investors including pilot Konstantinos ‘Dino’ Stylianopoulosas ‘guaranteed returns’ on their money by having a mathematician predict the outcome of sports matches.

Prosecutors say Stylianopoulosas transferred Foster $2million in cryptocurrency over the course of nine months between 2019 and 2020, in amounts ranging from $126,000 to $890,000.

Foster had already served jail time for fraud when he helped Cherie Blair buy two cut-price homes in 2002 (pictured at the time)

But investors say their money ‘evaporated’ after they invested in the firm, called Sports Predictions, and prosecutors allege that no bets were ever placed and the money was instead diverted to Foster.

Police were tipped off the the alleged con after Stylianopoulosas contacted a team of investigators at IFW Global, who then worked with officers to track Foster down.

He was eventually tracked to far north Queensland where he was dramatically arrested in August last year.

Footage of the arrest, taken by IFW Global, showed two officers dressed as joggers running towards Foster on the beach before tackling him to the ground.

The case was then sent to New South Wales, because that is where the cryptocurrency exchange used for the transactions was based.

But things began to unravel in March when Foster’s lawyers told a court there were ‘real issues of jurisdiction’ in the case.

Foster was released on bail at that hearing but placed under effective house arrest and fitted with an electronic tag to return to court so the issues could be resolved.

That hearing took place today, with Foster’s lawyer Justin Lewis telling the court that the pair had met in his office in Sydney at 11.30am before going to court.

Mr Lewis said Foster had assured him that he would turn up, but by 2pm he was nowhere to be seen and couldn’t be contacted because his bail conditions prohibit him from carrying a phone.

Foster’s Queensland lawyer, Chris Hannay, insisted to The Australian that he is not on the run an is making his way up to the state so he can hand himself over to police.

‘At this stage, he will be making his way up to Queensland to face the warrant and we’ll be making suitable arrangements for him to surrender,’ Mr Hannay said.

Cherie Blair (left on her way to apologise for the property purchases, and right following her husband’s 1997 election win) initially denied Foster was involved in the sales but after the Daily Mail exposed that as a lie, she was forced to make a tearful apology

It is hardly the first time that Foster has vanished while in trouble with the law.

During the 1980s, while marketing a brand of tea that he claimed was an ‘ancient Chinese weight loss secret’, he hopped from Australia, to the UK and then to the US – setting up a string of companies to market the tea.

In fact, the tea was ordinary black tea, but each time a firm was placed under investigation, Foster moved country and set up again. He was eventually jailed over the scam in the US.

Returning to Britain in the 1990s, he was jailed again – this time for plugging ‘thigh reduction cream’ – but absconded while on day release and went back to Australia. 

He was arrested on a British warrant in Australia, absconded again, and was then re-arrested and spent more time in jail in both countries.

After spending some time in Fiji in 2001, he returned to Britain in 2002 where he began dating Carole Caplin, who was then Cherie Blair’s style guru.

It was through Carole that Foster was introduced to Cherie, and helped the Prime Minister’s wife purchase two properties in Bristol at discounted rates.

When the deal was exposed, Cherie initially denied Foster was involved, until the Daily Mail printed email conversations between the pair.

In them, Cherie called Foster ‘a star’ and told him ‘we’re on the same wavelength.’

The revelation prompted a tearful public apology from Cherie, who denied knowing about Foster’s criminal past and blamed her ‘mistake’ on ‘trying to be a good wife and mother, trying to be the prime ministerial consort at home and abroad..’

‘Some of the balls get dropped – there just aren’t enough hours in the day,’ she said.

Queensland police say they are now actively searching for Foster, with assistance from colleagues in New South Wales.

NSW police say Foster was last tracked to central Sydney via his ankle bracelet, but they have been unable to locate him. 

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