Australian businessman Peter Foster ordered to stand trial on fraud charges

High-profile Australian businessman Peter Foster, who gained notoriety for advising former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's wife on property deals, was ordered Wednesday to stand trial for alleged fraud.

Peter Foster, 44, did not enter a plea when he appeared in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on four fraud charges.

Foster is accused of fraudulently obtaining US$234,000 (EUR 170,000) from the Bank of the Federated States of Micronesia in the tiny South Pacific nation.

He also allegedly dishonestly obtained benefits on three occasions - twice in Brisbane, the capital of Queensland state, and once at his neighboring hometown of Gold Coast - totaling 400,000 Australian dollars (US$343,000; EUR 249,000).

Magistrate Jacqui Payne ruled there was sufficient evidence for Foster to stand trial in the Queensland Supreme Court at a date to be set.

Foster did not apply for bail and will likely remain in custody until the charges are resolved. The potential maximum penalties were not immediately clear.

Prosecution witness Robert De Courtney, president and chief executive of the commercial bank based in the Federated States of Micronesia, told the magistrate Wednesday that Foster successfully applied for a loan and then used the money for purposes not approved under the loan agreement.

Foster has been in a Brisbane jail since February when he was deported from Vanuatu.

He had been jailed for three weeks in Vanuatu for arriving in that South Pacific country without a visa after skipping bail in neighboring Fiji where he faced fraud charges related to a tourist development.

Foster first gained international attention in the 1980s for dating former British topless model and pop singer Samantha Fox.

He made British headlines again in 2002 when Cherie Blair, wife of the then prime minister, attempted to cover up his role in negotiating real estate deals on her behalf.