Tuesday, December 04, 2012

(NEWZIMBABWE) Ben-Menashe escapes house fire

Ben-Menashe escapes house fire
03/12/2012 00:00:00
by Staff Reporter

A FIRE has ravaged the Canadian home of Ari Ben-Menashe, the former Israeli spy who famously tried to ensnare MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai in a plot to assassinate President Robert Mugabe.

Ben-Menashe, a former arms broker and international lobbyist, was unhurt in the fire which gutted his upscale Westmount home in Montreal on Sunday evening, Canadian police said. Montreal police spokesman Constable Daniel Lacoursière said that a passerby noticed the flames and spotted a person fleeing.

The three-alarm blaze prompted a response from two different fire stations. The crews arrived to find that Ben-Menashe and a woman had made their way safely outside.

“The fire crews arrived to find the house fully engulfed on the first floor,” said Richard Bourdeau, chief of operations for the fire department. “The fire quickly spread to the second floor.”

The blaze at the semi-detached home was so fierce that fire crews were not able to go inside. Another two people had to flee the adjoining house, which is for sale.

The investigation has now been turned over to the police arson squad, Constable Lacoursière said, though he warned the damage is so extensive it could be difficult to learn what caused the fire. Fire crews said Monday it was not safe for anyone to enter the house, which was expected to be demolished later.

Ben-Menashe, an Iraqi-born Israeli, has been tied over the years to different foreign governments including Israel, Zimbabwe and Iran.

He was charged in the United States in 1989 with trying to sell military transport planes to the government of Iran — but was acquitted.

In 2002, Ben-Menashe was again thrust in the international spotlight, after taking on as a client Morgan Tsvangirai. In what has been described as a nefarious double-cross, Ben-Menashe made video and audio recordings that purportedly revealed Tsvangirai plotting the assassination of President Mugabe.

He then delivered the recordings to Mugabe, a long-time friend and ally. Ben-Menashe and Mugabe immediately signed their own consultancy deal that was worth more than US$1 million.
Tsvangirai was charged with treason and Ben-Menashe became the prosecution's star witness.

A verdict was rendered in 2004; Tsvangirai was acquitted. In his decision, the trial judge called Ben-Menashe's courtroom behaviour as "very rude ... he made gratuitous remarks ... The witness was unpleasant and continued to exhibit contemptuous behaviour even after being warned by the court."

Ben-Menashe later said he had no regrets. "Tsvangirai is the one who approached us," he insisted. "He asked us to do a coup and kill Mugabe. I did not frame him. We don’t do that. He just walked in. He approached the wrong guy."

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