Oil trading guru dies

28 June 2013 | Business

Billionaire Marc Rich, credited with inventing oil trading and pardoned by then president Bill Clinton over tax evasion, racketeering and busting sanctions with Iran, died on Wednesday in Switzerland aged 78. Rich fled the Holocaust with his parents for America to become the most successful and controversial trader of his time and a fugitive from US justice, enjoying decades of comfortable privacy at his sprawling Villa Rosa on Lake Lucerne. Belgian-born Rich, whose trading group eventually became the global commodities powerhouse Glencore Xstrata, died in hospital from a stroke, spokesperson Christian Koenig said. At the cream-painted, red-roofed villa, with views of the nearby mountains and grounds sloping down to the banks of the lake, security guards and other staff could be seen but there was no sign of family members. "He will be brought to Israel for burial," Avner Azulay, managing director of the Marc Rich Foundation, said by telephone. Rich will be buried on Thursday at Kibbutz Einat cemetery near Tel Aviv. Many of the biggest players in oil and metals trading trace their roots back to the swashbuckling Rich, whose triumph in the 1970s was to pioneer a spot market for crude oil, wresting business away from the world's big oil groups. To his critics, he was a white-collar criminal, a serial sanctions breaker, whom they accused of building a fortune trading with revolutionary Iran, Muammar Gaddafi's Libya, apartheid-era South Africa, Nicolae Ceausescu's Romania, Fidel Castro's Cuba and Augusto Pinochet's Chile. In interviews with journalist Daniel Ammann for his biography, 'The King of Oil', the normally obsessively secretive Rich admitted to bribing officials in countries such as Nigeria and to assisting the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad. Explaining Rich's route to riches in an interview with Reuters in 2010, Ammann said: "He was faster and more aggressive than his competitors. He was able to recognise trends and seize opportunities before other traders. And he went where others feared to tread - geographically and morally." A US government website once described Rich more simply, as "a white male, 177 centimetres in height ... wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the US Customs Service and the US Marshall Service." In 1983, he was on the FBI's 10 most wanted list indicted for tax evasion, fraud and racketeering. At the time, it was the biggest tax evasion case in US history.

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