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Wanted Sydney developer Jean Nassif has spat vitriol from abroad at Australian authorities seeking his arrest over an alleged financial fraud while his property firm crumbles, saying he was being unfairly targeted by agencies trying to take down his business and his empire.
In an exclusive interview, Nassif claimed he did not run from his problems and urged afflicted unit owners to stick with him because he is “a man of honour”.
Jean Nassif is wanted over an outstanding warrant in relation to alleged fraud-related offences.Credit: Police Media
The developer also made a series of wild and baseless allegations of corruption against a string of his enemies, including NSW Police, politicians and building commissioner David Chandler, who has been pursuing the developer over defects at his sites.
“The police is corrupt. David Chandler is corrupt … Ray Hadley is a dog who scream[s] for them,” Nassif said.
Broadcaster Ray Hadley was in the sights of Nassif.
Hadley has been a strident critic of Nassif during his show on 2GB Radio, a station that belongs to Nine, the owner of this masthead. He was quick to return fire when told of Nassif’s remarks.
“Being called anything derogatory by Jean Nassif is a badge of honour,” Hadley said.
“Whatever clinic he’s in I hope they’ve got a large supply of straitjackets because he’s stark raving mad.”
Turmoil has engulfed Nassif’s construction empire, Toplace Group, after it was placed into the hands of administrators earlier this month.
About 20,000 home owners in 20 buildings across NSW, along with hundreds of furious tradies and employees, are seeking to recoup their losses in what has been dubbed one of Australia’s largest property collapses.
Nassif, whose last known whereabouts were Beirut, Lebanon, claimed he was no longer in his native country, but in a “rehab centre somewhere”. He said he could not disclose the location because “they are looking for me”.
‘When I get fit from my illnesses and from my rehab, I will face my problems. Never run away from my problems.’
During the tirade, Nassif denied having issues at his building sites and blamed any defects on structural engineers.
“I will fix every single defect on the face of the planet. I build 35,000 homes in my hard 35 years of hard working. Never fail. Have no problems on any site. The problem is … not mine. It’s a structural problem, structural engineers. Why they come to me?” he said.
NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler.Credit: Kate Geraghty
“I did not design the building. I built it according to the plan. So, what they want from Jean Nassif? What did I do wrong?”
Administrators are untangling a web of 75 Toplace entities that collectively hold assets and liabilities worth up to $1 billion.
NSW Fair Trading has banned Toplace and Nassif from operating in NSW while a review decides their future after the agency identified more than 40 “serious and potentially serious” defects in Toplace towers.
Chandler previously issued orders preventing residents from moving into two Toplace developments.
In February, owners of Toplace’s Park Grove apartments at Botany were awarded $4.5 million in compensation after a six-year battle in the NSW Supreme Court, while a further three owners corporations have legal action against the company over defects in their respective buildings.
Nassif, 55, was overseas when he was named earlier this year as a co-accused alongside his daughter Ashlyn in an alleged $150 million bank loan fraud against Westpac. Ashlyn was arrested and charged at the time, while NSW Police issued a warrant for Nassif’s arrest last month.
He fiercely denied any wrongdoing and claimed police did not attempt to speak to him before they issued a warrant for his arrest.
“They say I’m disappearing … on the news … to declare that I am on the run, and they require public assistance to find me. I begged [police] to call me any time he wants. He never did. I’m here … they’re lying dogs,” he said.
“When I get fit from my illnesses and from my rehab, I will face my problems. Never run away from my problems. I’m a warrior. I’m a fighter for good … not fighter for evil.
“They find one project where the engineer had a mistake with the structure and they dump it on me.
Apartment owners in the Vicinity building in Canterbury are among those impacted by the collapse of Toplace Group.Credit: Janie Barrett
“I want to fight back, and I’m gonna hurt them. They destroyed my family.
“The reason why Jean Nassif is overseas is Chandler and the police force, because they want to take my business and my empire.”
Hadley implored Nassif to return to Australia to face the claims made against him by thousands of owners alleging defects in their units.
“If he were the courageous man that he says he is, he’d come back to assist his daughter in her criminal battle, as well as his own criminal matter. ”
Nassif and two of his companies are pursuing a defamation case against Hadley and Nine over eight broadcasts alleged to have conveyed that the builder was incompetent, dishonest, and that buyers should have concerns about dealing with him. Nine is vigorously defending the case.
Nassif’s lawyer Rebekah Giles indicated on Thursday she intended to cease acting in the proceedings.
A spokeswoman for Chandler said the consequences for developers and their financiers for poor choices were becoming starker as recent reforms took effect.
“The Residential Apartment Buildings (Compliance and Enforcement Powers) Act 2020 holds developers accountable for the buildings they build, and the designers, builders and certifiers they engage,” the spokeswoman said.
“When developers accept deposits from purchasers and promise to deliver a fit for purpose-compliant buildings, they are responsible for the outcomes and they cannot blame contractors when things go wrong.”
Last year in state parliament, Chandler accused Nassif of trying to discredit him by falsely claiming he asked for a $5 million bribe.
Apartment owners in Toplace’s Vicinity complex at Canterbury, where emergency propping has been installed after experts deemed it at risk of collapse, were incensed by Nassif’s remarks.
IT manager Patrick Quintal said he was appalled. “He doesn’t sound to me like a person who’s sorry for what they’ve done, just sorry he got caught,” said Quintal, 29.
The repair bill for the building has been estimated at a minimum of $50 million, leaving owners in fear they will be left destitute by Toplace’s collapse.
“It might have been the engineers’ fault, but he was the one who hired them and kept them on, and took the money from the unit buyers, so the final responsibility lies with him,” Quintal said.
“Instead, we owners are having to deal with the consequences of his actions and the fact he’s deflecting the responsibility and saying it’s not his fault isn’t right.
“We’re the ones who are paying.”
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