Sydney Property Tycoon Pleads Guilty in Heritage Building Arson Attack

A real estate magnate may spend the next decade in prison for his part in the arson that destroyed a waterfront historic home that had sold for $24 million a year before. The fire was set intentionally.

A historic home in Northwood on Sydney’s lower north shore was damaged in a fire in September 2002. On Thursday, 70-year-old Steve Nassif pleaded guilty at the Downing Centre Local Court to arson.

After the silver Toyota Hiace van was seen on CCTV video in the street, he and his 21-year-old co-accuse,d Adams Kipkosgei Bet,t were taken into custody by the NSW Police.

Nassif was freed on bail after the crown prosecutor failed to request that he be kept in jail before his sentence was passed.

Sandy Chen Yi Fei, who happened to be the sister of next-door neighbor and fund manager ‘Owen’ Ouyang Chen, paid $24.1 million to purchase the property. Ten months later, it burnt down. Neither has been charged with a crime, and the Chens have never faced legal action.

Following Lane Cove Council’s rejection of the Chens’ request to destroy the historic mansion’s gutted remnants, Nassif makes a last appeal.

A judgment summary noted that demolishing a historic item—even completely destroying it—should always be considered a last resort.

Bett allegedly used an accelerant to set fire to the mansion that night, and Nassif drove him there before the two of them hurried away, according to the police.

More than fifty firemen were on the scene that night, but the home nevertheless took a severe beating.

No injuries were reported, and no one was home at that time.

A dramatic scenario unfolded three months later when Nassif was apprehended at his Wentworth Falls house in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. The estate included a rose-lined driveway adorned with various exotic sports vehicles.

The District Court will hear Nassif’s case again next month.