5 Jun 2007

Australian suspects in Foster escape still awaiting Vanuatu court hearing

6:28 pm on 5 June 2007

The future of two Australians awaiting trial in Vanuatu for allegedly smuggling conman Peter Foster from Fiji six months ago is still in the balance.

Andrew Tatar and Kel Walker are charged with aiding unlawful entry to an illegal immigrant six months ago.

A public prosecutor for Vanuatu, Kayleen Tavoa, says a date for a court hearing is expected to be set within a month and the men are on bail.

"The two Australian men, Kel Walker and Andrew Tatar, they are now out on bail to appear in the magistrates court. Their matter was transferred back from the supreme into the magistrate court, because it is within the jurisdiction of the magistrate court to hear about the illegal smuggling of Foster into the country."

The lawyer of the two men, John Malcolm, says he expects the magistrate court will set a hearing date within a week.

Meanwhile, the boat that allegedly took conman Peter Foster into Vanuatu remains detained by the Vanuatu Maritime Authorities.

Mr Foster has been returned to Australia, where he remains in jail.

The acting commissioner of the Martime Authorities, Les John Napuati, says it has seized the ship that allegedly transported the men and loged a complaint against its captain.

The vessel is now in [Port] Vila under the sole custody of the Vanuatu Maritime Authority. I have launched a complaint against Mr Kel Walker in respect to certain items belonging to the vessel that were in a container ready to be shipped to Australia. The goods belonging to the vessel were there, so we retrieved the goods.

Les John Napuati says this case is also before the courts and is expected to be heard in early July.