When it comes to describing the lives of the richest people, we generally tend to associate them with stories of success and tireless hardwork to attain that massive fortune. But not everyone is a nice guy when it comes to the big bucks and there are many people who have minted money through ‘alternative’ route
These fraudsters turned fugitives have made away with billions in their lives. While some have been convicted, others are on the run and we are here to look at the richest fraudsters in the world who swindled away with billions of dollars smoothly and secretly.
Top 10 Richest Fraudsters in the World
10. Charles Ponzi- $20 Million
Known as the Father of Ponzi Schemes, Charles Ponzi was an Italian businessman who mostly plied his trade in the USA in the 1910s and 1920s. Ponzi is credited with coming up with irresistible schemes for his investors and promises on giving higher returns to investors who came on a first come first serve basis.
His scheme involved purchasing postal coupons at a discounted rate and would redeem them for airmail postage stamps in the US at the face value of a dollar. Within a few months, he made close to $5 million and began leading a luxurious life which involved purchasing a mansion and a yacht, thereby raising eyebrows from the tax authorities in the US.
In 1920, the scheme was declared fraud and Ponzi had duped investors worth $20 million whilst maintaining his elite status. He was sentenced to a five-year prison term for fraud in the Federal Prison. Now, that’s the Italian Job done with perfection!
9. Dennis Kozlowski- $150 Million
Former CEO of the world’s biggest security company Tyco International, Dennis Koslowski is considered to be one of the richest fraudsters of all time. He managed to walk away with unauthorised loans and bonuses during 1990 and 2000 and spent the money on lavish purchases such as a Roman-themed birthday party and a $6,000 shower curtain sponsored by the company.
One year later, his crimes came in the public eye and he was sentenced to 25 years in prison but was granted bail in 2014.
8. Emmanuel Nwude- $242 Million
Emmanuel Nwude must have had such good persuasion skills that he managed to con an entire country with his trickery and astute mind. Being the former Director of the Union Bank of Nigeria, he managed to dupe Nelson Segakuchi, Director of Banco Noroeste into gaining unauthorised loans and convinced him to invest in constructing an airport in Nigeria.
The fraud was discovered in 1997 when Spanish bank Santander took over Banco Noroeste and found suspicious transactions on Segakuchi’s end. Investigations revealed the hand of Nwude in it and while Segakuchi was arrested in New York in 2001, Nwude was nabbed in 2005 with trials being underway as of this day.
Here is Video on How A Nigerian Scammer Emmanuel Nwude Sold Fake Airport For $284 Million
7. Reed Slatkin- $600 Million
Featuring at number seven in this list of richest fraudsters in the world is Scientology minister and scammer Reed Slatkin. Slatkin was the chief of one of America’s biggest scams by conning more than 800 wealthy Scientologists which included names such as Anne Archer and Giovanni Ribisi.
The amount collected was stashed into the reserves of the Church of Scientology and the personal accounts of Slatkin with which he owned assets such as luxury cars and a private jet. He was eventually exposed in 2001 and was given a 14-year jail term for fraud and illegal sourcing of money.
6. Kazutsugi Nami- $1.5 Billion
The first among the many billionaire scams on this list is from Japanese businessman Kazutsugi Nami. He started his linen and bedding company L&G and also started a fake digital currency titled ‘Enten’ which translates to Divine Yen.
People became interested in his scheme and he managed to lure over 37,000 investors into investing in this currency. Nami promised them an annual return of 36% and said that it would be the next big thing in the future. However, his predictions went downhill and the company started underperforming. To add to that, the investors pressurized him for their returns, and unable to fulfill his promise, the company shut shop in 2007.
A few months later, Nami was arrested and displayed extreme guilt when confessing to his crimes in front of a press conference. He is currently serving an 18-year jail term since 2010 for fraud and creation of illegal currency.
5. Huang Guangyu- $2.3 Billion
Huang Guangyu was the chairman of China’s largest consumer electronics group GOME and happened to be China’s richest man in 2006 with a net worth of over $2 billion. He was arrested in 2008 for indulging in illegal stock manipulation and counterfeit foreign exchange trading along with bribing top government officials.
In 2010, he was given a jail term of 14 years, but his dirty work wouldn’t stop there. He continues to operate GOME from his cell and is said to be associated with American gangster Al Capone who runs his firm abroad, thereby making him one of the many richest fraudsters alive.
4. Jerome Kerviel- $4.9 Billion
Born in Brittany, France, Jerome Kerviel is a former trader who was claimed to have carried out illicit trading activities worth more than $50 billion which made his bank incur a lot of losses without the knowledge of his owners.
Years later, the authorities got to know of his illegal dealings at Societe Generale and he was arrested in 2008. He was convicted in the same year on charges of scam and siphoning of funds and was sentenced to three years in prison.
3. Javier Martin-Artajo and Julien Grout- $6.2 Billion
Occupying the third spot in this list of the richest fraudsters in the world is the JP Morgan trader duo of Javier Martin-Artajo and Julien Grout. Possessing a greedy mindset, these two traders inflated the values on the Synthetic Credit Portfolio to achieve excellent quarterly and annual results for the firm.
During this time, they engaged in various illegal activities which involved indulging in securities fraud worth $6.2 billion in JP Morgan’s books. They eventually formed a group called London Whale to carry out their operations in secrecy and was led by trader Bruno Iksil.
The US authorities got a sniff of their dealings and they were arrested immediately. The losses amassed as high as $1 billion which forced JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon to take a massive pay cut that year.
2. Allen Stanford- $7 Billion
Now here comes a classic example of how to go from riches to rags. Allen Stanford was the chairman of the Stanford Executive Group and was the chief sponsor of various sports events in the USA. Owing to his success, he was also granted the knighthood by the Queen of England and all was going smooth for him.
However, his downfall began in 2009 when he set up a huge Ponzi scheme and cheated investors worth $7 billion in the name of fake deposits and schemes. While you may think he would have continued to indulge in these scams, he did something which no one could have imagined.
On 18 June 2009, he turned himself in a police station in Florida and spilled the beans out in front of the cops. He was sentenced to a bizarre 110-year prison term and is serving it in the United States Penitentiary, Coleman in Florida with his knighthood being revoked as well.
1. Bernie Madoff- $65 Billion
And topping this rather unfortunate list of richest fraudsters in the world is the founder of erstwhile Bernard L Madoff Investment Securities. Regarded as the biggest fraud case in American accounting history, Madoff defrauded his clients worth a whopping $65 billion with a scheme which promised impressive returns.
However, the surprising element of the story is that Madoff repaid his investors whenever they demanded the money, thereby creating a clean image for himself. In fact, even the SEC was unaware for a very long time which managed to astonish Madoff as well.
But his tale was to end as in 2009, he was arrested after an insider leaked out information to the tax authorities and was sentenced to a rather deserved 150-year prison term.