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Suspect in Sydney collar bomb hoax a former HK expat
FBI arrest Asia-based businessman accused of terrorising schoolgirl in extortion bid
Staff Reporter and Agence France-Presse in Sydney
Updated on Aug 17, 2011
A former member of Hong Kong's expatriate Australian community has been arrested by an FBI special weapons and tactics team in the United States over an extortion incident in which a fake bomb was strapped around the neck of a Sydney schoolgirl.
Part of the Asian finance scene, Paul "Doug" Peters is accused of being the masked man who subjected Madeleine Pulver, 18, to a horrifying 10-hour ordeal earlier this month after breaking into her home and locking the device around her neck. Pulver is a member of one of Sydney's richest families.
The FBI arrested Peters on Monday without incident at his ex-wife's house in a well-heeled suburb near Louisville.
US judge Dave Whalin yesterday ordered the 50-year-old jailed pending an extradition hearing set for October 14 in Louisville. The defendant's ex-wife, Debra Peters, sat alone in the front row, weeping quietly.
"I will tell you that he will contest these charges" in Australia, his lawyer, Scott Cox said on the courthouse steps following the hearing.
Peters' profile on the LinkedIn website says he is managing director of the Douglas Corporation, formerly Allco Finance Group Malaysia, for which he has divided his time between Malaysia and Hong Kong, working on structured finance deals.
The website says he worked in Hong Kong for six years in total, including a stint as a partner and director of Asian Capital Partners. His other former employers included private US financier the Connell Company.
Peters, the son of a Cathay Pacific pilot, went to Kowloon Junior English School from 1966 to 1972 before completing his schooling at Sydney's exclusive Scots College, along with his brothers Wayne and Brent.
Wayne, 54, is now an investment banker. Brent, his other older brother has a colourful past. At 25, Brent was charged with the attempted murder of two police officers. Three years later he was arrested over a major heroin distribution racket.
A friend who used to play schoolboy rugby with Paul Peters told the Herald that after his studies in economics and law at the University of Sydney, Peters returned to Hong Kong to join the finance world.
A friend who knew Peters as an adult in Asia said: "He liked the finer things in life - French wine, French champagne, horse-riding."
Australian police said Peters had indirect links to the Pulver family - but was not known to them - and had family and business ties in both the US and Australia.
However, his primary residence was now in Sydney.
"It was a fairly detailed chain of circumstantial evidence that led to the arrest this morning," New South Wales police assistant commissioner Dave Hudson said at a press conference with New South Wales police commissioner Andrew Scipione.
According to US court documents released yesterday, authorities showed a trail of clues leading to Peters, including credit card charges and computer IP addresses.
They say the teenager was in her bedroom when she saw the intruder walk in carrying a black aluminium baseball bat and wearing a striped, multi-coloured balaclava over his head. The man told her to sit down and no one would get hurt.
The girl sat on her bed and the intruder forced a black box against her throat and looped a device similar to a bike chain around her neck.
The man locked the box into position around her neck and placed a lanyard and a plastic document sleeve around her neck. It contained a handwritten note with demands and an e-mail address and a USB digital storage device. The note was signed "Dirk Struan", the name of a character in James Clavell's novel Tai-Pan who uses ruthlessness to rise to the top of a business empire in 19th century Hong Kong.
Australian authorities determined that the G-mail account was established in May from an IP address linked to a Chicago airport. Travel documents showed that Peters had been at the airport that day.
The account was accessed three times on the afternoon of August 3, almost two hours after the hoax device was placed around the teenager's neck. The device was found to contain no explosives.
Three days after Peters took a one-way flight from Sydney to Louisville on August 8, a Louisville FBI agent spotted him in the back yard of his ex-wife's house.
Madeleine's father, Bill, said he hoped the arrest marked the beginning of the end of his family's ordeal. He said his daughter was "a bright, happy young woman who had her life turned upside down".