MELBOURNE: The Indian man, who said he was attacked and set ablaze by assailants here, had falsely reported the incident for claiming insurance, Australian police alleged today.
Jaspreet Singh, Grice Crescent, Essendon, in the city’s north, faced an out-of-sessions hearing today before a bail justice at St Kilda Road police complex charged with making a false report to police and criminal damage with a view to gaining a financial advantage, the Sky News TV said.
Singh, who is in Australia on his wife’s student visa, told police that he was doused with petrol and set alight as he parked his car near his home early on January 8.
Singh, 29, was taken to the Alfred hospital with 15 per cent burns, affecting his face, arms and hands.
Detective Senior Constable Danielle O’Keefe of the arson and explosives squad told the hearing Singh suffered the burns while trying to torch his 2003 Ford Futura.
O’Keefe said arson chemists and hospital staff had concluded the damage to the car, Singh’s clothes and his injuries were not consistent with his story.
“Police inquiries have led us to believe that Mr Singh is in some financial difficulty and that he intended to sell his car but instead stood to gain USD 9,750 from an insurance claim out of this particular incident,” she told the hearing.
The January 8 incident occurred amid growing tension between India and Australia over a spate of violence against Indian students in recent months here.
Police had obtained security footage depicting Singh buying a 15-litre opaque plastic container and 15.96 litres of petrol on the day before the attack. The container and other evidence were found at his unit when he was arrested yesterday, O’Keefe said.
However, Singh has denied all allegations. His wife had been questioned about her knowledge of the incident, she said.
Burns were still obvious on Singh’s face and neck, and he wore pressure bandages on his arms.
Through an interpreter, Singh told the hearing he and his wife planned a holiday to India, leaving on February 20 and returning in late April to visit his child and extended family.
O’Keefe said while police did not oppose bail it has been noted that Singh was a potential flight risk.
The justice, who declined to be named, granted him bail with strict conditions banning him from contacting witnesses and attending points of international departure.
He must report to police three times a week and surrender his passport. He will appear before the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on March 15.
At the time, police Detective Acting Senior Sergeant Neil Smyth described the attack as “a bit strange” and said there was no evidence the attack was racially motivated.
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