admin's picture

By Frederica Elbourne

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Oct. 24) - Fiji’s next permanent secretary to the United Nations, Senator Dr. Tupeni Baba, says he has cut all links to on-the-run Australian conman Peter Foster.

He says that as far as he is concerned, Foster is "dead."

Foster, who has been jailed in three continents, mainly over dieting scams, is being sought by Fiji police for allegedly falsifying a criminal history that was used to secure a work permit.

He is also wanted over claims that he falsified Internet material in an attempt to convince the Native Land Trust Board to revoke a lease held by two developers over a pristine, remote beach area in the Yasawa Islands.

Baba made the comment yesterday after he confirmed he had attended a dinner in June this year at the exclusive L'Opera restaurant in Suva, attended by consultants who were working for Foster.

At the 2001 elections, Foster financially backed Baba's unsuccessful New Labour Unity Party.

According to Foster he poured up to FJ$200,000 [US$117,000] into the failed election bid.

There has been speculation that Foster might try to use his connection with Baba to get inside the United Nations organization.

"I have more common sense than that," said Baba yesterday. "I will not be influenced, because I don't know him any more. I have some sense of judgment. He is dead, as far as I'm concerned."

Baba said he had been invited to the dinner by the Bank of the Federated States of Micronesia to discuss investment proposals.

"I wouldn't have attended if I knew Peter was behind all this," he said. "I have stayed away from Foster for several years, since the last blow-up with overseas authorities.

"We do not have any close links other than the party formation years ago. I've resisted from being in touch with him."

Baba said he was not aware if Foster had made any attempt to contact him. "I was interested in the dinner because I taught politics in the Pacific and this involved the Federated States of Micronesia," Baba said.

He said he had no idea at the time that Foster's local consultants would attend the dinner.

Although Foster was not present, it is believed the event was to further his interests.

The dinner was attended by the president and chief executive officer of the Bank of Federated States of Micronesia, Bob deCourtney, former Labour minister Kenneth Zinck and Foster's consultants, who now say they also have cut their links to the conman.

Mr. Zinck said he arrived late at the dinner. "I don't know what was on the agenda other than to eat," he said. "There were other guys there that I didn't know."

Nadi lawyer Jekope Masiyaka confirmed his attendance and said he had represented the interests of one of the ‘mataqali’ [primary social division in the Fijian society] concerned.

"I've since washed my hands," he said. "Ever since Peter entered the scene, I thought it immoral for me to have anything to do with it. In all innocence we did what we did until we met Peter."

One of the former consultants said the dinner was to discuss a business venture with Habib Bank, and the possibility of buying them out.

"They (BFSM) came to us, contacted us. They wanted to invest in Fiji. But Foster conned them in the end," he said.

Habib Bank chief manager Irfan Rabbani said this was news to him. "I would be the only one at that level if there were such talks, but I wasn't even invited to such a dinner in the first place. I've never met or seen these people," Rabbani said.

Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry yesterday called for an investigation into Foster's work permit, which he said, was given in exchange for political campaign advice to SDL.

Rate this article: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Add new comment