A crooked businessman who torched his own family business in Dundee in a bid to carry out a £1.75 million insurance scam has been jailed for 13 months.
Haroon Bashir was described as a pillar of the Muslim community and a respected charity volunteer as his spectacular fall from grace played out at Dundee Sheriff Court.
Bashir, 43, deliberately set fire to his unit on Wester Gourdie Industrial Estate in a brazen attempt to dupe insurers into making a huge pay-out.
Bashir launched the claim – worth up to £1.75 million – but was unaware he had been captured on CCTV being driven away from the burning Fazteck building.
Sentencing, Sheriff Paul Brown said: “This was a serious offence involving planning and the intention to cause very serious damage to the property.
“There was a substantial impact and a substantial potential impact.
“You abused your position.
It is very sad to see someone who has done so much good work in the past in this position.”
— Sheriff Paul Brown
“A substantial custodial sentence is the only appropriate disposal in my view.
“You have numerous character references which all speak to the fact you are a man who has provided great charitable services to the community.
“It is very sad to see someone who has done so much good work in the past in this position.”
Counsel Jonathan Crowe, defending, said: “It was a one-off incident that will have a lasting and devastating impact on his life.
“He has expressed remorse and shame.
“He has made one serious mistake in his life.
“He was driven by despair and pride.
“His experience of this judicial process has been life-changing.
“It was a moment he described as one of madness.
“He saw setting fire to the premises as a potential way out and a way to bring in money.”
The court was told Bashir had mounting debts and hatched the scheme to torch the family business.
Fazteck, a printer supplies company distributing cartridges, toners and print equipment to commercial businesses and offices, leased and operated its premises from Chohan Management, which is run by the same family.
Bashir was the principal shareholder and director.
Fiscal depute Lora Apostolova told the court the “worst case scenario” insurance claim could provide more than £1 million for Fazteck and £750,000 for of Chohan Management.
At 10.48 pm on February 11, 2018 an interior alarm was activated and a security guard from a neighbouring property saw smoke billowing from the building.
He could see a fire exit was open.
Ms Apostolova said Bashir met police at the front gates 10 minutes later.
“The small storage area was totally engulfed in flames.
“The seat of the fire was established as an eight-by-ten-foot storage room.
“It was established it was a deliberate act, using a naked flame on a combustible material.
“It could not be established if accelerant was used because of the ink, dye and toner in the debris.
“Fire had consumed the entire room. The main office was undisturbed.”
Nailed by CCTV
Insurance documents relating to Fazteck’s credit agreement with Alianz Insurance were found the next day.
A section of the policy, breaking down what the insurance company would pay out, was marked and highlighted.
Ms Apostolova said: “A CCTV review revealed a silver car registered to a family member driving across the Kingsway and to the Asda store adjacent to the industrial estate.
“It remained there nearly an hour and is then seen driving away as smoke starts to escape from the building.
“A figure is seen to emerge from the building and get into the car which had stopped a short distance away from the gates.
“Haroon Bashir was identified from the footage.”
Bashir, of Errol Road, Invergowrie, pled guilty to setting fire to items in the storage area on Nobel Road and destroying the fabric of the building.
He also admitted forming a fraudulent scheme between February 11 and March 16, 2018 to obtain money by fraud from Allianz Ltd.