While you might not see them on Forbes’ list of wealthy people, criminals and their beneficiaries are some of the richest people on the planet.
For example, Bloomberg alleges that the heirs of a prominent Nazi are billionaires who own half of BMW who are also closely connected with Daimler. Four of the heirs are worth $1.2 billion each, and much of their wealth allegedly came from slave labor at German concentration camps.
The Vatican has built a secret property empire worth close to a billion U.S. dollars using money Italian dictator Mussolini gave the church for blessing fascism.
Modern tyrants have gotten wealthy from oppressing people as well. For example, the family of U.S.-backed Egyptian dictator Mubarak holds $40-70 billion. Russian leader Putin also has a current net worth of $40 billion. (They pale in comparison to Libya’s Gaddafi, worth $200 billion.)
What should have happened, of course, is that ill-gotten gains should have been clawed back from the criminals as soon as they were discovered, just as they should be clawed back from Wall Street fraudsters.
But that is not likely to happen, since many political and business leaders are unrepentant and unwilling to root out crime.
Balzac may have been exaggerating when he said, “Behind every great fortune lies a great crime.” There are some wealthy people who earned their money by honestly delivering a better or cheaper product or service.