Australia’s most notorious conman, Peter Foster, is back in jail, but he’ll only ever be punished for the crimes he’s committed that have a dollar figure attached to them.
In 2006 the island nation of Fiji was being rocked by a religious campaign to re-criminalise homosexuality.
Spearheaded by the Methodist Church and hardliners from the country’s other religions, campaigners aimed to remove protections on grounds of sexuality from the country’s constitution to ensure colonial-era morality laws could be used to target gays unimpeded.
In the middle of this, Peter Foster was trying to finance a development in the pristine Yasawa islands but found a New Zealand businessman already had the lease on a piece of beachfront property he wanted.
Shortly after this, listings for the rival development began appearing online, billing it as Fiji’s first gay-only resort -“ a heavenly haven for homosexuals. The story was soon picked up by the Fijian press and then, shortly after, the international gay media.
News of the gay resort reignited the religious campaign, with church leaders declaring that gay tourists would bring, drugs, rape as a result of drunkenness, marriage of the same sex, and stealing to the islands.
Then documents were delivered to the offices of the Fiji Times newspaper which appeared to show that pedophiles planned to operate out of the development and had their eyes on local youths, causing a wave of anti-gay hysteria to sweep the nation.
Thankfully the panic was short-lived. The documents were revealed to be crude forgeries.
There were no pedophiles, and the Fiji Times admitted it had been duped -“ in fact there had never been plans for a gay resort on the land at all.
Fijian authorities believe Foster was responsible for creating the documents and internet listings that sparked the panic, and that he hoped to take over the land once his rival’s name was ruined.
Foster fled Fiji while on bail but was arrested in Vanuatu where he was imprisoned for six weeks before being handed over to Australian authorities to stand trial over the fraudulent use of a loan obtained from a Micronesian bank relating to his development plans.
Foster will be eligible for parole in 27 months. It is unknown whether he will then be handed back to face charges in Fiji. But even if he is, for Fiji’s gays and lesbians, whose rights were endangered and reputations ruined, the damage has been done and there will be no justice.