A PROPERTY mogul who filmed a cardboard Grenfell Tower effigy being burned at a bonfire party was no more offensive than Boris Johnson, a court was told yesterday.
Millionaire Paul Bussetti, 46, is accused of sharing ‘grossly offensive’ material after footage of the burning model — complete with imitation victims — went viral in November.
Bussetti, who handed himself in within days, told police: ‘It was just one of those stupid moments.’ He added: ‘It was just sick. There was no purpose. It was just a horrible video.’
One figure dressed in a hijab was referred to as a ‘ninja’ on the video, and one party guest said ‘that is what happens when you don’t pay your rent’, as the flames took hold, the court heard. Sandra Ruiz — whose 12-year-old niece Jessica Urbano Ramirez was among the 72 people who died in the 2017 fire — called the remark ‘revolting’.
In a statement, she told Westminster magistrates: ‘The video made a mockery of her death. They clearly spent a long time on the model, making it all the more malicious.’
But Bussetti’s lawyer Mark Summers QC claimed his client was no more a criminal than the prime minister as he listed some of Mr Johnson’s past remarks, citing: ‘Cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies, with watermelon smiles.
‘Suggesting that Malaysian women only go to university to find husbands. Calling Muslim women bank robbers and post boxes.’
Mr Summers continued: ‘We say that none of these things cross the high threshold of hate speech but all of them have emanated from the mouth of the man who is now our prime minister. And he has not been prosecuted for any of them.’
Bussetti, of South Norwood, south-east London, admits filming the footage and sharing it with two closed WhatsApp groups with 20 members.
But he denies two charges of sending grossly offensive material via a public communications network because an unknown person posted it on YouTube.
Mr Summers said sharing the video with friends was an example of free speech under the European Convention on Human Rights, and there was no evidence he knew it would go further.
The court heard Bussetti had frequently shared racist terms online.
On one occasion he described Bishop Michael Curry, who gave a sermon at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, as a ‘n***** priest’.
A picture of a gallows had been captioned ‘n***** swing set’. He also used the words ‘w**’, ‘black c***’ and called cornflakes ‘c***flakes’.
Judge Emma Arbuthnot replied: ‘He is not just racist in one group. He is racist in one, two, three, four… how many more groups?’
She said she was satisfied there was a case to answer and adjourned his trial until August 22. Bussetti was granted unconditional bail..