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Former fugitive financier Marc Rich passes away in Switzerland

It has been announced that Rich, one of the original and certainly among the most controversial commodities traders , has passed away suddenly in Switzerland at the age of 78 apparently as a result of as a result of a brain stroke.    His funeral is expected to be held in Tel Aviv, Israel on Thursday 27th June.

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/ By Albert Hecht / 

Among the first to express their condolences was Ivan Glasenberg, chief executive of Glencore Xstrata the company that Rich with a major part in founding. In his statement Glasenberg expressed his condolences to the family stating “We are saddened to hear of the death of Marc. He was a friend and one of the great pioneers of the commodities trading industry, founding the company that became Glencore.”

At the height of his business success as an international commodities trader in the early nineteen eighties Rich was accused of more than 50 charges, including trading with an enemy country (Iran) when the US was in a state of embargo with them, as well as wire fraud, racketeering and evading more than $48 million in personal income taxes, which was, at the time, the largest tax evasion case in the history of the US. Before he could be taken into custody, Rich fled to Switzerland where he was to remain a fugitive for more than eighteen years until being granted a pardon by President Bill Clinton on his last day in office in January 2001.

President Clinton’s clemency was a subject of some criticism at the time, despite the fact that they often stated that cases of such a nature should be settled in civil and not criminal courts. At the same time as pardoning Rich, President Clinton granted a pardon to Pincus Green, Rich’s business partner who had also been indicted on the same charges.

The charges were based around the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo, where Rich and Green were accused of circumventing the embargo restrictions, instead buying vast quantities of oil is a very low price and re-selling it, mostly to US oil companies who were prepared to almost double the price, to maintain supplies.

Rich had apparently been buying all from the Iranians for more than 15 years, firstly from the Shah’s regime and even after the 1979 Islamic revolution. Among Rich’s  international clients were  the South African and Israeli Governments.

With Marc Rich being a fugitive from the law, many of his conventional business activities were curtailed, and in 1993 his shares in the company that  what  founded as Marc Rich & Co  on was to go on to become Glencore fell into the hands of his leading manager, headed by Ivan Glasenberg, as the result of a management buyout.

Before he fled the wrath of the US financial system, Rich remained very active in the business world, divesting himself of most of his activites in the commodities trading sector, instead switching his considerable energies and talents into a number of other business sectors. One of his most spectacular coups was the acquisition of the 20th Century Fox film studios in 1981 in parnership with well known industrialist Marvin Davis. After Rich seconded to Switzerland, Davis sold Rich’s stake to Rupert Murdoch for $250 million.

Marc Rich was born in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1934, although he was taken by his parents to live in the US at the age of seven, in order to escape the impending invasion of his country by the Nazis. Rich went on to study at the New York University, in Manhattan, but dropped out after one semester to go begin his education as a commodities trader with Philipp Brothers.

Rich was a very active philanthropist , establishing a number of charitable foundations including the Marc Rich Foundation for Education, Culture and Welfare as well as the Swiss Foundation for the Doron Prize, His efforts on behalf of charity earned Rich a number of honorary doctorates, among them from the Bar-Ilan University, Ben-Gurion University as well as Tel Aviv University.

At the time of his passing Rich was estimated to have a net worth of around $2.5 billion.



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