Australia: Wealthy Perth businessman who set fire to Bunnings building in $20m insurance scam jailed - PressFrom - Australia

AustraliaWealthy Perth businessman who set fire to Bunnings building in $20m insurance scam jailed

10:26  15 april  2019
10:26  15 april  2019 Source:

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A Perth businessman who organised a plan to set fire to a property for a $ 20 million insurance claim will s A businessman who orchestrated an attempted $ 20 million insurance scam that involved setting fire to the former West Australian headquarters of Bunnings has been sentenced to more

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Wealthy Perth businessman who set fire to Bunnings building in $20m insurance scam jailed© ABC News The fire caused extensive damage to Bunnnings' former headquarters.

Wealthy Perth businessman, Hossean Pourzand, will spend five years behind bars for orchestrating a fire that nearly destroyed the former Bunnings headquarters, in an attempt to claim $20 million in insurance.

The 65-year-old’s company owned the Welshpool warehouse and office building, situated on 5000 square metres of land.

Shortly after it was vacated by Bunnings in 2017, Pourzand wanted to sell the block for $20 million, but was told that due to poor property market conditions, he would likely receive closer to $13 million.

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Pourzand then took out insurance and valued the property at $20 million.

Less than a month later the building was set alight by a friend of Pourzand’s, who he had schemed with to commit insurance fraud.

Pourzand offered the friend, whose name is suppressed, $50,000, a year’s free rent, and a reduced $120,000 loan for his part in the scam.

Two audio recordings of conversations between Pourzand and his friend revealed how the businessman had coached his co-offender to use accelerants, come up with an alibi, and cover his face while attending the warehouse to light the fire.

Pourzand suggested using gas bottles, which could be expected to be found in a Bunnings warehouse, to ignite the flames, but his co-offender felt unsure, and instead lit the blaze using sash cord soaked in citronella he purchased from Bunnings’ stores in the days before.

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Pourzand knew chairs inside the building, which formed part of Bunnings’ office, would soon be taken away, telling his co-offender in an audio recording “tonight is the night”, referring to March 14, 2017.

His co-offender turned off the CCTV in the building and lit the fire while the building was vacant.

The property was substantially damaged, and took fire fighters six hours to bring under control at a cost of $38,000.

The estimated damage to the property was between $8.85 million and $19.9 million.

The next day Pourzand lodged an insurance claim with his insurer which, if paid-out, would have seen him pocket between $14.4 million and $19.9 million.

However, the claim process was cut short when police released a CCTV still image of Pourzand’s co-offender buying items used in the fire to the media in an attempt to identify the man.

Pourzand rang police and said his friend was the person in the photos and would not have been involved in the fire.

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The move implicated both offenders after a search warrant of the other man’s home uncovered a tablet device with two audio recordings on it of the men talking in detail about their plan to commit arson and insurance fraud.

The co-offender had recorded the conversations without Pourzand’s knowledge.

During his sentencing in the Supreme Court of Western Australia on Monday, Justice Stephen Hall described Pourzand as a “very willing, involved and interested participant” in the crime.

Pourzand, whose family was in court to hear the sentencing, sat with his face in his hands for most of the judge’s remarks.

“As the owner of the building, you had the most to gain and the fire would have been pointless without your support,” Justice Hall said.

“In recorded conversations you refer to petrol and tell [suppressed name] he should put in on chairs.

“[Suppressed name] was in financial trouble and the promise of reward you offered was no doubt an incentive.”

The court heard Pourzand was a wealthy man who had arrived in Australia from Iran as a 19-year-old, and built a successful enterprise from scratch.

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Many character references spoke of his good character, including his wife, two daughters, friends and business associates.

His lawyer, Mara Barone SC, said Pourzand was a dedicated family man who regularly donated to charities, including many children’s charities.

He also helped fund the construction of an ear and eye science institute in Subiaco and funded a library and homeless programs in Iran.

Ms Barone argued his offending was triggered by health issues, and stress, however Justice Hall dismissed her argument, and found Pourzand had a financial motive for committing the crime.

“This was an offence that involved deliberate planning and you were involved in that planning,” he said.

“Your motive was financial gain.

“Whether or not your intent was to destroy the building, it is clear you intended to cause substantial damage.”

The block of land, with the substantially damaged building, has since been sold for $11.5 million.

Pourzand has since paid emergency services $38,000 to cover the cost to fight the fire, and has paid his insurer $500,000 to cover its costs for commencing his claim and ordering assessments.

Justice Hall found this act of taking responsibility in Pourzand’s favour, along with his remorse and shame for what he had done, and his previous good character.

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“It’s clear that you felt great shame, both to yourself and your family,” he said.

Submissions Pourzand has also suffered from media reports covering his scam held little weight for Justice Hall, who said the publicity was a "natural consequence" of the offending he entered into.

Pourzard, who has been in custody since August 2018, was sentenced to seven years and four months jail.

He will be eligible for parole in December 2023.

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