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Crooked travel agent became Sydney hostage taker

May 26, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

A travel agency manager in Iran defrauded customers of over half a million dollars and then fled to Australia, where he finished up being shot dead by Sydney police after taking hostages in a café.

Sydney’s Lindt Café siege of December 2014 ended in two hostages being killed, as well as gunman Man Haron Monis. The inquest into the siege heard earlier this week that the whole tragedy could have been avoided had Australia extradited Monis back to Iran earlier, to face fraud charges over his travel agency.

Commenting on the affair, Iran’s ambassador to Australia, Abdolhossein Vahaji, told SBS World News that Tehran had warned Australia about the criminal charges hanging over Monis.

Man Haron Monis

Iranian authorities, pursuing Monis over the travel agency fraud, informed Interpol and the Australian government about his activities.

The inquest heard that Monis was born Mohammed Hassan Manteghi in Iran. He defrauded his travel agency customers of about AUD 550,000 before fleeing to Australia in the late 1990s. Once he reached Australia via Malaysia, he applied for a protection visa claiming to be a refugee and was granted one in August 2000.

Iran was trying to get Monis back to face criminal charges but did not have an extradition treaty with Australia.

Ambassador Vahaji told SBS World News that if the rogue travel agent had been extradited as requested after ripping off his clients, the siege would have never happened.

Monis, who took to wearing Islamic clerical garb, was in 2014 charged with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, as well as over 40 counts of sexual assault. Somehow he was granted bail. He went on to take 17 people hostage at the Lindt Chocolate Café in Sydney’s Martin Place on a Monday morning in December 2014, having pledged allegiance to terrorist group ISIS. Police negotiated with him for 16 hours before officers stormed the building.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott famously described Monis as “a madman who was roaming our streets”.

“How can someone like that be entirely at large in the community?” Abbott said. Many people have asked the same question since.

Written by Peter Needham

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