Monday, October 19, 2009

Marc Rich, International Operative: Governments Be Damned

I posted earlier about the new Marc Rich book, The Secret Lives of Marc Rich.

The book is now out. I haven't had a chance to read it, yet, but NYT is reporting on the book:
Marc Rich, the former fugitive oil trader long criticized for his business ties to nations like Iran, South Africa and Cuba, has acknowledged in a new book that his dealings with those nations were more extensive than previously disclosed.

In more than 30 hours of conversations with a Swiss journalist, Daniel Ammann, the usually tight-lipped Mr. Rich gave an extensive account of his oil trading from the 1970s through the 1990s.

Those dealings...straddled ideological lines from Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran to Fidel Castro’s Cuba and from the apartheid regime of South Africa to the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua

In 1983, Mr. Rich was indicted by the United States on charges of tax evasion as well as trading with an enemy state, Iran. He fled the United States and became one of the nation’s most infamous fugitives over the next two decades.

Mr. Rich told the author that while on the run, he provided intelligence to American diplomats about Iran, the Soviet Union and other countries. He was granted a controversial pardon by President Bill Clinton on the last day of his presidency.

In the interviews with Mr. Ammann, Mr. Rich claimed that South Africa was his largest and most important client. The author estimated that Mr. Rich earned over $2 billion trading with South Africa from 1979 to 1993.

Mr. Rich also offered details about how much oil he bought from Iran — before and after the Islamic revolution — even as President Jimmy Carter imposed sanctions on the country after 53 Americans were taken hostage in November 1979.

After the Iranian revolution, the national oil company continued to sell 40 million to 75 million barrels of oil a year to Mr. Rich’s company, abiding by previous agreements with the government of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Mr. Rich continued to buy oil from Iran until 1994, when he sold his company.

“They respected the contracts,” Mr. Rich told Mr. Ammann. “We performed a service for them. We bought the oil, we handled the transport and we sold it. They couldn’t do it themselves, so we were able to do it.”

At the same time, Mr. Rich kept Iranian oil flowing to Israel even after the new government in Tehran severed diplomatic relations with Israel.

From 1973 to 1993, Mr. Rich said he was Israel’s most important oil supplier, delivering 7 million to 15 million barrels a year.

“Being Jewish, I didn’t mind helping Israel,” Mr. Rich is quoted as saying. “On the contrary.”...

Throughout that period, Mr. Rich claims he provided valuable information to the State Department as well as the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service.

“Its agents were in regular contact with the fugitive trader,” according to the book. “They wanted his opinions on various ‘key people in power’ in some of the politically sensitive countries where he did business,” especially Iran, Syria and Russia...
I told you this is one major operator.



  1. AustrianInvestor.comOctober 19, 2009 at 7:39 PM

    I've just read it and it is good. There are references to Ayn Rand in the book which I think are excellent. From the information in the book it looks like he never violated any laws as his companies were Swiss companies "providing a service" to his clients. Some may feel there are moral implications but that is another issue that is debatable.

    This book is a great read about an international capitalist (a la Hank Rearden) who was the victim of Rudy Guiliani's political aspirations. He had an interesting remark concerning the USA's present situation and his refusal to ever visit there again. It is along the lines of (I'm paraphrasing from memory as I do not have the book in front of me) "there are too many laws and one would never know what they would use to try and arrest me - as an example - something as simple as a traffic ticket".

    It reminds me of the following quote from Ayn Rand:

    "Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We WANT them broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against - then you'll know that this is not the age of beautiful gestures. We're after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you'd better get wise to it. There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one MAKES them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens?
    What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted - and you create a nation of law-breakers - and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Rearden, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with."

    (Page 406 of Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand).

  2. Robert - thanks for the heads-up on Rich's new book. The title of your piece, "...:Governments Be Damned." is enough to make me interested in the book. I may have to buy a copy.