The Montreal home of a controversial lobbyist and former arms dealer went up in flames Sunday evening in what police believe was a case of arson.

The fire began at 9:30 p.m. Sunday at a semi-detached home at 3111 Jean-Girard St. near Atwater Ave. Witnesses told police they saw a man running away from the house just before the fire began, and there are obvious signs that someone broke a window and threw a firebomb inside.

Two people evacuated the building but nobody was hurt.

Investigators say the million-dollar house was destroyed by arson.

The fire spread very quickly and firefighters were not able to prevent major damage to the house. Damage is so extensive that the building -- including the adjoining house -- may have to be torn down.

The property is owned by the Jean Girard Residence trust, and is the Montreal home of lobbyist Ari Ben-Menashe.

The Iranian-born self-described international lobbyist has claimed to work with the Israeli government, and once struck a $120-million deal with former MUHC head Arthur Porter for Porter's family business, African Infrastructure Group, to build bridges and ferries overseas. That deal never came to fruition.

Ben-Menashe made headlines last year when it was revealed he accepted $200,000 from Porter --  money that was supposed to be used for lobbying efforts in the African country of Sierra Leone.

The perceived conflict of interest led to Porter's resignation from a government body overseeing Canada's spy agency, CSIS.

Ben-Menashe was investigated by the U.S. government for international arms dealing during the 1980s.

In a book called Profits of War: Inside the Secret U.S.-Israeli Arms Network, Ben-Menashe claims to have worked for the Israeli government, and brokered secret deals for the CIA. 

In 2004, he was involved in a scheme to eliminate the main rival of Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe, whom he describes as a personal friend.

Ben-Menashe now claims he runs a legitimate lobbying business based in Montreal, with one major caveat:  most Canadian banks now refuse to handle any of his money.

The Montreal police arson squad is investigating the fire.