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The BBC's Philippa Thomas
"For the past 17 years Mr Rich has been a wanted criminal"
 real 56k

The BBC's Paul Reynolds
"It's going to be very difficult to make a prosecution out of this"
 real 56k

Thursday, 15 February, 2001, 15:15 GMT
Marc Rich: Hero or villain?
Marc Rich
Marc Rich has been living as a fugitive from US law in Switzerland for 17 years
By BBC News Online's Lars Bevanger

Marc Rich has been dogged by controversy for a long time. The spotlight is again on him after former president Clinton, during his final hours in the White House, granted him a pardon.

Mr Rich fled the US for Switzerland in 1983. He was then facing charges of racketeering, illegal trading and evading a tax bill of $48m.

His ex-wife, Denise Rich, is a songwriter and New York socialite. It was the disclosure of her large donations to the Democratic Party that led Republicans to question Mr Clinton's decision to pardon Mr Rich.

Mr Rich made his money in oil, and was once a regular at OPEC oil conferences.

One of the charges brought against him before he fled the US, was trading oil with Iran - a country which at that time was considered an enemy state.

Away form public view

Since moving to Switzerland Mr Rich has kept a far lower profile. His house, in the village of Meggen, is shielded by vast grounds.

Marc Rich's lawyer Jack Quinn
Marc Rich's lawyer Jack Quinn appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee
He has set up a trading company based near Zurich, and according to the mayor of Meggen, Hans Bachman, pays his taxes "regularly and correctly".

Pictures of Mr Rich have been appearing regularly in the Swiss press lately, but he gives no interviews.

Advanced security surrounding his offices reflects his desire to stay out of the public eye, as does his habit of taking his bodyguards everywhere.

He is reported never to stay too long in one place when he takes breaks in the ski resort St Moritz - moving between his vacation apartment and a luxury hotel.

Charitable

Friends of Mr Rich have described him as being generous - contrary to the picture drawn of him by many of his critics as a fugitive tax evader.

Former president Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich has not been well received
After moving to Switzerland Mr Rich donated considerable amounts of money to cultural projects.

As part of his appeal for a pardon from Mr Clinton, he secured the signatures of many prominent personalities in the world of high culture.

Other donations from Mr Rich's business have gone to medical research, notably the research into leukaemia.

One of his three daughters, 23-year-old Gabrielle, died from the disease in 1996, but Mr Rich has not been able to visit her grave in New York because of his indictment.

No return

The charges levied against Mr Rich in the US are not punishable under Swiss law.

But new Swiss legislation on money laundering could mean his company comes under scrutiny.

Returning to the US does not seem an option for Mr Rich in the near future.

There federal prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding his pardon.

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See also:

15 Feb 01 | Americas
Clinton faces criminal inquiry
14 Feb 01 | Americas
Senate probes Clinton pardons
26 Jan 01 | Americas
Clinton gifts under scrutiny
20 Jan 01 | Americas
Clinton pardons 100
13 Feb 01 | Americas
Cloud follows Clinton
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