Alex Constantine - December 15, 2012
Luxury residence torched Sunday night was a home of lobbyist Ben-Menashe
Arson investigators called in; ‘suspect was seen fleeing the area,’ police say
Robert Dubé, an operations chief for the Montreal fire department, said two people who had been inside the house on Jean Girard St. got out on their own. The fire was declared under control about 11:30 p.m. Photograph by: John Mahoney, The Gazette
MONTREAL - Arson investigators were examining the burnt-out shell of the home of international lobbyist and former arms dealer Ari Ben-Menashe on Monday.
On Sunday night, a fire tore through the semi-detached luxury residence that borders Westmount. The speed with which the blaze caught and spread, along with the fact that police said someone was spotted running away from the scene, all point to arson, police said.
Eighty firefighters battled the blaze, whose flames could be seen blocks away. Although the fire was declared under control by 11:30 p.m. Sunday, the four-bedroom home was decimated.
City of Montreal real-estate records list the principal owner of the home as Jean Girard Residence Trust, and provide an evaluation of $762,000 for the 2,800 square foot building and $286,000 for the land on which it sits.
Fire investigators Monday were speculating that the entire structure, including an adjoining townhouse, might have to be demolished.
The fire was called in by a passerby at 9:30 p.m. Sunday.
"A suspect was seen fleeing the area," Constable Simon Delorme of Montreal police said. Ben-Menashe, briefly reached by phone at an Old Montreal address Monday morning, said he had no comment.
Robert Dubé, an operations chief for the Montreal fire department, said two people had been inside at the time of the fire and got out on their own.
A residential telephone-directory listing links Ben-Menashe to the address on Jean Girard St., a cul-de-sac off Atwater Ave. north of Sherbrooke St. W.
Ben-Menashe, who once worked in the Israeli intelligence service, had most recently been in the news because of business dealings involving Arthur Porter, former executive director of the McGill University Health Centre. In an affidavit submitted last year to Quebec Superior Court, Ben-Menashe said Canadian banks refused to do business with him after a dispute he had with Porter.
In June 2010, Porter signed a deal with Ben-Menashe's lobbying company, Dickens & Madson (Canada) Inc., to raise $120 million U.S. for infrastructure projects in Porter's native Sierra Leone. Porter paid Ben-Menashe's company $200,000 in June 2010 to raise the money, which would be put into Porter's company Africa Infrastructure Group.