Notorious conman Peter Foster raided over alleged murder plot
Australia's most notorious conman Peter Foster has been raided by police over allegations he plotted to murder a private investigator who uncovered more than $11 million (NZ$11.71 million) that Foster had hidden from victims of a failed online gambling business.
Police from Queensland and NSW raided a Byron Bay property linked to Foster, along with a home occupied by his mother on the Gold Coast's Sovereign Island.
Detectives seized several phones during the raids, but no charges have been laid. There is no suggestion Foster's mother is involved in any criminal activity.
It is understood that AFP and Queensland police obtained an audio recording of the 53-year-old fraudster contacting an Australian man in the Philippines in November.
He allegedly offered $80,000 to have private investigator Ken Gamble killed in Manila, where his business is based.
A $30,000 deposit would allegedly be paid, once the contract was agreed to.
According to a source who has listened to the recorded conversation, Foster allegedly offered a $100,000 bonus if Gamble was killed before Christmas and arranged to pay for the "hit" from a bank account in Vietnam.
For the past three years, Gamble has pursued the notorious conman on behalf of about 160 investors in Sports Trading Club, which is now the subject of an investigation by NSW Police's Taskforce Apron into allegations of fraud and money laundering linked to his failed online gaming business.
Last month, it was revealed that Foster had siphoned $11.5 million from Sports Trading Club to offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands, Vanuatu and Hong Kong.
Before the raid, law enforcement agencies are believed to have sought advice from the Queensland Director of Public Prosecutions regarding the admissibility of the audio recording which involved a party in the Philippines and possibly outside the jurisdiction of Australian law.
Gamble relocated his family from Manila after learning a contract had allegedly been taken out, while federal and state police launched a major investigation, including phone intercepts and surveillance operations of Foster and his associates.
It is understood that an Australian expatriate in Manila is the subject of an investigation by Philippines police over allegations of conspiring to commit murder.
Last month, Foster was freed from a Queensland prison after serving one year of an 18-month sentence, in a surprise decision that was suppressed by the Federal Court in Brisbane.
The 53-year-old career criminal said outside court: "I'll just go home to my mum and make a cup of tea, hold her hand and tell her I'm sorry for the last 12 months."
"I hope you never see me outside a criminal court again"
Two years ago, he was ordered to serve 18 months of a three-year prison sentence for breaching his bail conditions over charges stemming from a dodgy weight-loss scheme linked to Melbourne underworld figure Mick Gatto and his business associate John Khoury.
Foster went on the run and rented a property in the Ewingsdale, near Byron Bay, where he operated Sports Trading Club while hiding from the Australian Crime Commission and other law enforcement agencies.
In February 2014, Interpol issued an international alert on Foster after images showing him drinking kava, reading a local newspaper and purporting to be in Fiji were circulated.
His luck ran out in October last year, when NSW Police executed federal warrants at the Ewingsdale house.
Caught unawares and only wearing his underpants, Foster attempted to flee before he crashed into a neighbour's fence and was tackled by an officer. He was charged with assaulting a police officer after allegedly grabbing his gun.