Edmond Safra - 'Arson' Death Trial Begins

Edmond Safra, 67, was one of the world's richest men and most successful bankers. Founder of the Republic National Bank of New York and on the board at HSBC, after the British-based bank purchased Republic, Safra died three years ago after suffocating in a smoke-filled bathroom in his own luxury penthouse in Monaco.

The Guardian reports that a 44 year-old male nurse, Ted Maher, himself a former Green Beret, went on trial in Monaco last week accused of starting the fire which killed Safra and Viviane Torrent, another member of Safra's nursing team.

Maher originally claimed that two hooded men broke into Safra's high-security premises that day in 1999, stabbed him and set the penthouse ablaze. Prosecutors now say that Maher confessed that he made the whole thing up. He is accused of stabbing himself and starting the fire so that he could play the hero and put it out and 'save' Safra's life. It is thought that at no stage did Maher actually wish to endanger anyone's life.

The accused's defense attorneys are thought likely to claim that the Monaco police and fire service are culpable in Safra's death as they acted in a grossly inefficient manner after the alarm was sounded. The ex-Green Beret could face life imprisonment if he is found guilty of arson with intent.

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