Marc Rich, Oil Tycoon, Dies at 78

Marc Rich, oil trader and infamous white-collar criminal, died at 78 Wednesday in Lucerne, Switzerland, after a stroke, The New York Times reports.

The billionaire became the most successful and controversial commodity trader of his time, tapping into markets for aluminum, silver, and zinc. In the 1970s, his triumph was to develop a spot market for crude oil, making a name for himself amongst bigwig international oil companies.

Rich was accused of trading with revolutionary Iran, even when it was holding American hostages in Tehran, Forbes reports. Rich made illegal business deals with countries like Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya, apartheid-era South Africa, and Fidel Castro’s Cuba, and others. 

In 1983, Rich was indicted on 65 criminal charges, including tax fraud and his illegal dealings with Iran. The Times reports that one of the most serious accusations against Rich was that he misrepresented the provenance of crude oil he sold from 1980 to 1981, selling it at a markup of a maximum 400 percent. Rich profited by more than $100 million and avoided almost $50 million in US taxes in the scheme. 

His company, known today as Glencore Xstrata Plc., paid about $200 million in civil duties to the government. Rich and his business partner fled to Switzerland to avoid prosecution.

The center of the biggest tax evasion case in US history, Rich was put onto the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List, alongside Osama bin Laden, for tax evasion, fraud, and racketeering, according to Yahoo Finance. The “King of Oil” continued to live in opulence in Switzerland, still the world’s biggest trader of metals and minerals.

The famous fugitive appeared on the presidential pardon list on Jan. 20, 2001, Former Present Clinton’s last day in office, after spending nearly two decades on the Most Wanted list, reports the Times. There was immediate speculation that Clinton gave the pardon due to political and donor pressure backed by Rich’s wife Denise. However, it was determined that her donations to the Democratic Party had nothing to do with the pardon, according to Forbes.

Others, including Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and ex-Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit, lobbied for the pardon on Rich’s behalf.

Clinton later stated that the pardon was “terrible politics,” as reported in the Times, and it was not, as he told Newsweek magazine worth the damage to his political reputation.

Rich will be buried in Tel Aviv, Israel.