Melbourne: An Indian, who had claimed to have
been set ablaze by assailants here, had faked the incident for
seeking insurance benefits to overcome his financial woes,
Australian police alleged on Wednesday.
Jaspreet Singh, 29, of Essendon area in the city`s north,
who reported the attack on January 8 after sustaining 15 percent burn injuries, was today charged with making a false
report to police with a view to gaining financial advantage.
At an out-of-sessions hearing, police said Singh had
purchased an opaque plastic container and filled it with
nearly 16 litres of petrol a day before he torched his
seven-year old car to claim insurance money, Sky News TV said.
The container and other evidence were found at his home
when he was arrested yesterday, they said before the bail
"Police inquiries have led us to believe that 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," Detective Senior
Constable Danielle O`Keefe told the hearing.
Singh, who is in Australia on his wife`s student visa,
had told the police that he was doused with petrol by some
thugs and set alight as he parked his car near his home.
Singh was taken to the Alfred hospital with burns to his
face, arms and hands.
According to Singh`s account, he and his wife left a
dinner party in Essendon between 1.30 am and 2.00 am and drove to
their nearby home in Grice Crescent. He dropped his wife home
and had gone to park his car when he was attacked.
Singh claimed that as he was getting out of the car, four
men attacked him, pushing him back against the vehicle and
pouring an unknown fluid on him. One of the men then ignited
the fluid with a lighter before all the attackers fled.
O`Keefe said Singh suffered the burns while trying to
torch his 2003 Ford Futura. She said arson chemists and
hospital staff concluded that the damage to the car, Singh`s
clothes and his injuries were not consistent with his story.
"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," O`Keefe said.
However, Singh has denied the allegations. His wife has
also been questioned about her knowledge of the incident.
The January 8 incident came amid a spate of violent
incidents against Indians, many of them students, in Australia
in recent months.
Over 100 cases of attacks on Indians have been reported
since the last year in Australia and the issue has been taken
up by top representatives of the Indian government with their
Burns were still obvious on Singh`s face and neck as he
appeared in the court, and he wore pressure bandages on arms.
Through an interpreter, he told the hearing that he and
his wife planned a holiday to India, leaving on Feb 20 and
returning in late April to visit his child and family.
O`Keefe said while police did not oppose bail it has been
noted that Singh was a potential flight risk.
He was granted bail with strict conditions banning him
from contacting witnesses and attending points of
international departure. He must report to police thrice a
week and surrender his passport. He will appear before the
Melbourne Magistrates` Court on March 15.
At the time of the incident, police Detective Acting
Senior Sergeant Neil Smyth had described it as "a bit strange"
and said there was no evidence it was racially motivated.
Meanwhile, Victorian Premier John Brumby was miffed with
the Indian media and officials for what he called unbalanced
reporting on Singh`s case. Brumby said Indian media reports of
such incidents had been unbalanced, according to AAP.
"I think I`ll make a couple of comments and in a sense
they go, as much as anything, to the way the Indian media and,
to a lesser extent some representatives in the Indian
government, portray these events," he said.
On the killing of Ranjodh Singh, whose body was found in
a charred condition, in New South Wales, he also pointed out
that the accused are Indians.
"I think the point needs to be made that the people who
have been charged with that murder are both Indians... And
we`ve had this case (Jaspreet) which attracted a lot of
attention in India and police have charged an individual with
setting fire to himself".
"So I hope that there is some balance to the debate, some
balance to the reporting in India and certainly to date that
balance hasn`t been there," he said.