Victims of conman Peter Foster hunt missing millions
More than 100 victims of notorious conman Peter Foster have moved to freeze funds held in offshore tax havens after more than $10 million was siphoned from his online gambling company Sports Trading Club.
Fairfax Media can reveal Foster and at least eight associates have been served with freezing orders over the past week, including Foster’s niece, Arabella Foster, and high-profile Sydney lawyer Leigh Johnson.
Corporate records reveal Ms Foster, a 29-year-old designer based in Brisbane, was linked to Hong Kong company Sports Trading Club Limited, while she also controls more than $6 million in offshore accounts in Vanuatu, Hong Kong and the Cayman Islands.
It is understood that most of the funds were transferred overseas from a Westpac account associated with Sports Trading Club in Australia.
Several other companies controlled by Ms Foster were set up in the British Virgin Islands, which are also believed to have been used as a corporate front for her uncle, who has a string of fraud convictions over the past 30 years.
Last month the 53-year-old conman was released from a Queensland prison after serving one year of an 18-month sentence, in a surprise decision that was suppressed by the Federal Court in Brisbane.
Foster told reporters outside court: “I’ll just go home to my mum and make a cup of tea, hold her hand and tell her I’m sorry for the last 12 months.”
In the past week, Foster has applied for an Australian passport and plans to travel to Hong Kong, according to a source.
More than 100 investors in the failed Sports Trading Club are expected to launch legal action against Foster and his associates in a bid to recoup millions of dollars funnelled offshore.
The class action is believed to have appointed lawyers in Hong Kong and international fraud investigator Ken Gamble, who did not return calls on Thursday.
The litigation is expected to trigger an investigation into the structure of Foster’s highly secretive business, which used a Panama-based “privacy protection service” to conceal the identity of the companies behind the online gambling scheme.
Foster used the alias “Mark Hughes” when dealing with clients, and duped several prominent sporting identities to work as ambassadors for the online company.
Sports Trading Club received investments between $50,000 and $250,000, which was pooled and punted on a range of international sporting events.
The firm’s former communication manager, Patrick McMahon, claimed Australian investors had received a 1900 per cent return between January 2013 and June 2014.
“We don’t gamble, we trade. We make money out of other people’s mistakes. When one side gambles and the other trades, it is like owning the casino,” Mr McMahon said in a media statement.
The company’s bona fides were first challenged in 2013 when it was revealed that at least two senior executives used fake images on their LinkedIn profiles.
The gambling syndicate was also caught fabricating quotes from a deceased Princeton economist to spruik its business.
Foster was previously involved with an almost identical gambling business called Sportalists, which shut down its website after an expose on A Current Affair in 2012. Sports Trading Club was founded two months later.
A Current Affair also filmed Foster’s dramatic arrest in Byron Bay in October last year, when he was tackled by police and reached for an officer’s gun.
Foster had been on the run for more than 12 months, after breaching his bail conditions over charges stemming from a dodgy weight-loss scheme.
Foster, who has served prison sentences in the US, Britain, Vanuatu and Australia, was banned by the Federal Court in 2005 from any involvement in the weight-loss 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 well-being.
Peter Foster and Arabella Foster could not be reached for comment.