19 Jan 2007

Foster's deportation from Vanuatu delayed

3:02 pm on 19 January 2007

Crew members of the Retriever 1 say Australian conman Peter Foster was never on the vessel alleged to have smuggled him from Fiji to Vanuatu.

Fijilive reports the chief mate Robert Lofting, says he's never met Mr Foster, while the first mate Andrew Tarter says he's never been on board the salvage vessel.

The two, along with the ship master Kell Walker, have been charged with aiding and abetting the Australian's unlawful entry to Vanuatu and are due to appear in court on Monday.

The Australian Federal Police yesterday searched the 30m vessel alleged to have spirited him to Vanuatu.

Meanwhile Mr Foster's deportation from Vanuatu to Australia has been delayed because of a bureaucratic bungle.

Officials at Vanuatu's Supreme Court said Mr Foster was in custody because Internal Affairs Minister George Wells was not available to sign the deportation order.

Mr Foster had been charged with illegally entering Vanuatu after fleeing from Fiji where he's wanted on immigration charges.

However he looks set to avoid facing the Fiji charges after cutting a deal this week with Vanuatu authorities, which saw him plead guilty in return for a fine of 985 US dollars.