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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Jan.10) - International conman Peter Foster has turned into an international man of mystery, with Fiji police saying they are unable to find him.

Media reports say he has fled to Vanuatu.

Last night the military took his elderly mother into custody to question her on her son's whereabouts.

Police issued a bench warrant for his arrest on Monday after he failed to appear at the Suva Court for three fraud-related charges against him.

Foster last night said by mobile phone that he was still in Fiji under military "protective custody."

When asked if he had fled to Vanuatu on a yacht as reported, he replied, "I'm not in Vanuatu. I wish I was."

[PIR editor’s note: Foster, who was under house arrest at a Suva hotel pending court appearance, in October fled from police at a resort at Navua, near Suva, jumped from a bridge and hurt his head before being arrested.]

However, he would not give his location, other than to say he was accompanied by a military guard at all times.

"I was with a military officer yesterday afternoon and I would think that it takes a lot longer than 24 hours to get to Vanuatu by yacht," he said. "I'm staggered; where is this coming from? Every step I have taken has been at the military's direction."

A television report last night said Vanuatu police had said they were searching for Foster in Port Vila.

The report said that a yacht, which arrived on Monday night had a Peter Foster listed on its manifest, and a man matching his description had been seen at a resort.

In another development last night, eight soldiers arrived at the luxury villa at Denarau in Nadi, rented by Foster and his mother Louise and asked her to accompany them.

In a phone call to The Fiji Times, Mrs. Foster said the soldiers wanted to know where her son was.

"They're saying I have to go with them and make a statement," she said.

"They want to know where Peter is and they know nothing about any agreement with the commander."

Foster has previously said he struck an agreement with coup leader and interim prime minister Voreqe Bainimarama to work with the military helping uncover corruption in the overthrown Laisenia Qarase-led government.

As well, Foster has been using secretly recorded videotapes to try to prove his innocence.

Earlier yesterday afternoon Mrs. Foster said her son was in Fiji and under military guard, although he was not at their Denarau villa.

Foster was granted bail on condition he live at JJ's in the Park in Suva but he left there under military escort late last month.

Mrs. Foster denied reports that police had visited the Denarau unit earlier in the day and that she had refused to cooperate with them.

"They probably know what I will tell them which is nothing," she said.

Director, Economic Crime, Ravi Narain confirmed police were still looking for Foster, but said they had not visited the villa at Denarau. He said the charges against Foster were still current.

Some reports have put Foster at Deuba, the scene of his arrest late last year. Others put him in the Yasawa islands at Champagne Beach, the subject of an inquiry into an internet-based smear campaign last year against two New Zealand developers who hold a lease in the area.

Foster said the arrest was the result of a misunderstanding.

He had written to the court last Thursday asking for the mention on Monday to be adjourned for a week and had been told by the military he did not need to appear in court.

"I'm in their protective custody and if they tell me to do something, I have to do it," he said.

Foster said he was angry that the Director of Public Prosecutions was pursuing him when he had provided evidence proving his innocence.

He said Police Commissioner Jimi Koroi had asked the DPP to withdraw the charges against him while other people implicated by the new evidence were investigated.

Foster, who has been jailed in three countries, is facing three charges relating to using a forged Queensland Police Service criminal history to obtain a Fiji work permit.

However he claims, the criminal history, which showed he had only one drink-driving conviction, was forged by a man he hired as his agent.

Foster secretly video recorded a conversation with a former senior SDL official, who allegedly admitted lying to police and said the man he paid to be his agent manufactured the forged document.

"Commander Bainimarama promised me that if I could produce evidence of my innocence, it would be passed on to the police," said Foster yesterday.

"I know that he gave it to Commissioner Koroi and that the commissioner has asked the DPP to withdraw the charges."

"They are refusing to act."

"There are serious questions that need to be asked about why the DPP is in the pursuit of vengeance and not justice."

Military-appointed police commissioner Jimi Koroi would not comment yesterday and a spokesman for the DPP's office said they had not received any new evidence showing Foster's innocence.

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