Saturday, October 25, 2014   

One-time fugitive financier and Glencore founder Marc Rich dies
(06-26 18:22)

The controversial founder of Swiss commodities giant Glencore, Marc Rich, who was charged with tax fraud and then pardoned by the then US President Bill Clinton on his last day in office, has died at the age of 78.
Rich (pictured) was indicted in 1983 in federal court for evading taxes of more than US$48 million. In addition, he faced 51 counts of tax fraud and was charged with illegal oil deals with Iran.
His then wife donated US$1 million to Democrats. These included US$70,000 to Hillary Clinton's run for the Senate as well as US$450,000 to Clinton's presidential library fund.
He died of a brain stroke at Lucern in central Switzerland, the Marc Rich Group said in a statement today.
Rich was a fugitive from US justice for nearly two decades after his indictment for tax evasion and illegal trading with Iran until Clinton wiped his slate clean in 2001.
“He is survived by his daughters Ilona Schachter-Rich and Danielle Kilstock Rich with their families,'' the statement added, without providing further details.
Citing family sources, Swiss Radio 1 meanwhile reported that Rich, who was Jewish, would be given a funeral in Tel Aviv tomorrow.
Rich was born in Belgium in 1934, but his Jewish family left first for France and then for the United States in 1941 to flee the spreading Nazism in Europe.
In 1954, he joined US trading firm Philipp Brothers as an apprentice and quickly worked his way up the group, according to a profile on the website of his eponymous foundation.
He was soon groomed to take over as president of the US firm, but in 1974, he decided instead to launch a company based in Switzerland's canton Zug with a former colleague Pincus Green as well as several other traders.
From a small start-up, the company grew into a key player in the sector over decades.
His business deals with Iran, Cuba and apartheid South Africa had brought the wrath of US justice down on him. Accused of evading taxes of nearly US$50 million, as well as illegal trade with Iran, Rich was forced to flee to Switzerland in 1983.
In his absence, Rich's companies pleaded guilty to the charges, paying fines of about US$130 million.
His foundation stresses that he never admitted the accusations.
Rich was on the FBI's wanted list until he was controversially granted a pardon by Bill Clinton on the last day of his presidency in January 2001, in a move that created uproar, since Rich's ex-wife Denise was a key donor to the Democratic Party and to the Clinton library.
Clinton said later that he regretted the move, which “wasn't worth the damage to my reputation.''
In 1993, Rich sold his holding in the commodity trading part of the Marc Rich Group, which was then renamed Glencore.
Now merged with a Swiss mining group into Glencore Xstrata, the group is today one of the biggest commodities companies in the world.
The head of the company Ivan Glasenberg said in a statement that he was saddened to hear that Rich had died.
“He was a friend and one of the great pioneers of the commodities trading industry,'' he said.
When he fled to Switzerland, the Swiss authorities did not consider his alleged crimes grounds for extradition.
Rich worked on making himself popular by becoming a major philanthropist, giving money to the arts and charities in the hope of building good contacts and guarding against extradition. He renounced his U.S. citizenship and became a citizen both of Israel and Spain.
But he earned the hatred of US labor unions during the 1990-92 Ravenswood Aluminum Corp. strike in West Virginia.
His company was a part-owner of Ravenswood Aluminum, whose workers accused Rich of locking 1,500 steelworkers out of the plant when their contract expired and hiring replacement workers without negotiating.
The union won the 20-month labor battle, but not before union members picketed outside Rich's Swiss offices.
- AFP/Agencies

   
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