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Saturday, 14 December, 2002, 00:27 GMT
The man behind Cherie's 'regret'
Peter Foster
Peter Foster was behind bogus slimming aids
The reputation of fraudster Peter Foster - jailed on three continents - has grown steadily worse in the UK since the mid-1980s, when he launched a bogus slimming aid called Bai Lin tea.

A series of further frauds, jail sentences and an extradition battle after he absconded from prison have all followed, making the former boxing promoter an unlikely ally for Number 10.

Cherie Blair insists that she only met the Australian once, but his assistance in the purchase of two flats and the controversy over his extradition bid have not been helpful.

I'm no angel. I've made a lot of mistakes in my life

Peter Foster, in 1999
The latest allegations - that he is said to be considering selling his account of the messy business - have only added to the contempt in which he is held by much of the media.

'Magic' smoking aid

In his native Gold Coast in Australia, he was known as the "milkshake tycoon", a baby-faced businessman who became a boxing promoter in his teens.

His first brush with the law came at the age of 20 when he tried to claim insurance for a cancelled fight. A judge fined him for attempting a 40,000 fraud.

Then he tried selling tickets for a Muhammad Ali fight in Australia. It never happened and Foster was declared bankrupt after failing to pay for advertising for the fight.

Another hoax was an apparently miracle method of giving up smoking.

Foster's famous brush with the law was thanks to the marketing of Bai Lin tea - promoted by his former girlfriend, topless model Samantha Fox - which aroused the interest of police.

Samantha Fox
Foster persuaded Samantha Fox to promote Bai Lin tea
Foster avoided possible prosecution after leaving Britain in 1988.

But he returned and in 1994 was fined 21,000 after admitting trade description offences relating to the tea.

The next year he was found guilty of another plot designed to persuade slimmers to part with their money.

He was convicted at Liverpool Crown Court of conspiring to supply slimming granules - in breach of trading standard regulations.

Although Foster began his jail sentence he was determined not to finish it and absconded while on day release.

He surfaced in Australia and while fighting his extradition to Britain claimed that he could not be returned to the UK because his life was in danger following undercover work for law enforcement agencies.

Not welcome

It was while fighting his extradition that he sent a video tape of himself to Number 10, seeking support.

In the tape he said: "I'm no angel. I've made a lot of mistakes in my life. I keep wishing I could turn the clock back."

But the three-hour tape, sent from a Brisbane prison cell failed to halt his extradition.

After being returned to Britain, Foster was sentenced to 33 months in jail in 2000.

He was also disqualified from acting as a company director for five years, on three counts of using forged documents to try to obtain credit for a slimming products business.

'Never hidden past'

Despite the prison sentence he was freed immediately because he had spent at least 18 months in an Australian prison while fighting his extradition.

Foster is also reported to have left the Irish Republic only last spring after it emerged that he had attempted to get local businessmen to invest 120,000 in yet another dieting scheme.

It is claimed the smooth-talking "charmer" has a way of getting close to the famous. He managed to woo one of Cherie Blair's closest friends - her confidante, Carole Caplin.

Speaking to reporters in north London, Foster said that he had never made any attempt to hide his criminal past.

"I have never hidden my past from anybody. I have paid my dues and moved on, learning from my past mistakes," he told the press.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Guto Harri
"All week Downing Street has denied Mr Foster has played any part"
BBC political editor Andrew Marr
"Either misled or lied to the media about this man's role"
See also:

05 Dec 02 | Politics
08 Aug 00 | Politics
19 Jun 02 | UK
18 Jun 02 | Politics

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