By Nomalanga Moyo
04 December 2012
The home of controversial businessman Ari Ben-Menashe, famously linked to a sting operation against MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai in 2003, has been badly damaged in a suspected arson attack.
Reports from Montreal, Canada, say authorities were called to Ben-Menashe’s three-storey home at around 9.30pm on Sunday, and took about two hours and 80 firefighters to contain the flames.
Ben-Menashe, who was at home during the incident, escaped unhurt although the apartment was heavily damaged.
Montreal investigators believe the fire was intentionally started and, according to the Montreal Gazette, a suspect was seen fleeing the scene seconds before the blaze.
Ben-Menashe, who claims to be a former Israeli spy, is an international lobbyist and believed by some to be an arms dealer with ties to some of the world’s despots, including President Robert Mugabe.
Zimbabweans will remember Ben-Menashe for his involvement in Tsvangirai’s 2003 treason trial, when he testified that he was asked by the MDC to help arrange a coup and the killing of President Robert Mugabe.
Under questioning by the prosecutor, he said the then opposition MDC told him it wanted to pay $10 million to the Zimbabwean air force commander Perence Shiri to lead a coup.
The charges stemmed from a videotape secretly recorded by Ben-Menashe during a meeting with Tsvangirai in Montreal in December 2001. Tsvangirai was acquitted of the charges, which carried a death penalty, alongside then Movement for Democratic Change secretary-general Welshman Ncube and the late Renson Gasela.
Before setting up shop in Canada, Ben-Menashe was in 1989 arrested in the United States on charges that he attempted to sell military airplanes to Iran. He was acquitted, and then moved to Montreal where he married a local woman, became a Canadian citizen and opened the consultancy firm Dickens & Madson (Canada) Inc.