Glencore’s Swiss-based expat founder dies

The controversial founder of Swiss commodities giant Glencore, Marc Rich, who was pardoned of tax evasion charges by US President Bill Clinton on his last day in office, has died at the age of 78, his company said on Wednesday.

Glencore's Swiss-based expat founder dies
Marc Rich. Photo: Marc Rich Group/AFP

The international businessman, died of a brain stroke at Lucerne in central Switzerland, the March Rich Group said in a statement.
Rich was a fugitive from US justice for nearly two decades after his 
indictment for tax evasion and illegal trading with Iran until Clinton wiped his slate clean in 2001.

"He is survived by his daughters Ilona Schachter-Rich and Danielle Kilstock Rich with their families," the statement added, without providing further details.

Citing family sources, Swiss Radio 1 meanwhile reported that Rich, who was Jewish, would be given a funeral in Tel Aviv on Thursday.

Rich was born in Belgium in 1934, but his Jewish family left first for France and then for the United States in 1941 to flee the spreading Nazism in Europe.

In 1954, he joined US trading firm Philipp Brothers as an apprentice and quickly worked his way up the group, according to a profile on the website of his eponymous foundation.

He was soon groomed to take over as president of the US firm, but in 1974, he decided instead to launch a company based in Switzerland's canton Zug with a former colleague Pincus Green as well as several other traders.

From a small start-up, the company grew into a key player in the sector over decades.

Rich, together with his partners, managed to "break through the cartel of major groups that dominated the petrol market, from the wells to the petrol pumps," Daniel Ammann, his biographer and a Swiss journalist, told AFP a few years ago.

This success brought Rich a fortune, estimated by Forbe's magazine at $1 billion (766 million euros) today, although not without controversy.

Rich's business tradings with Iran, Cuba and apartheid South Africa had brought the wrath of US justice down on him. Accused of evading taxes of nearly $50 million, as well as illegal trade with Iran, Rich was forced to flee to Switzerland in 1983.

His foundation stresses that he never admitted the accusations.

Rich was on the FBI's wanted list until he was controversially granted a pardon by Bill Clinton on the last day of his presidency in January 2001, in a move that created uproar, since Rich's ex-wife Denise was a key donor to the Democratic Party and to the Clinton library.

Clinton said later that he regretted the move, which "wasn't worth the damage to my reputation."

In 1993, Rich sold his holding in the commodity trading part of the Marc Rich Group, which was then renamed Glencore.

Now merged with a Swiss mining group into Glencore Xstrata, the group is today one of the biggest commodities companies in the world.

The head of the company Ivan Glasenberg said in a statement on Wednesday that he was saddened to hear that Rich had died.

"He was a friend and one of the great pioneers of the commodities trading industry," he said.

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At least 19 illegal miners killed at subsidiary of Swiss-based Glencore

At least 19 illegal miners were killed on Thursday after part of a copper mine collapsed in southeastern DR Congo, Swiss-based mining giant Glencore said.

At least 19 illegal miners killed at subsidiary of Swiss-based Glencore
Photo: AFP

The incident happened when two galleries caved in at a mine in the Kolwezi area operated by Kamoto Copper Company (KCC), a subsidiary of Glencore.

“Tragically there were 19 fatalities today, with possible further unconfirmed fatalities,” Glencore said in a statement, which said there had been recurrent problems with illicit mining on its concessions.

Other reports suggest the death toll could be higher. 

The Congolese site Actualite.CD reported at least 36 deaths.

“The illegal artisanal miners were working two galleries in benches overlooking the extraction area. Two of these galleries caved in,” the company said.

Glencore said KCC had observed a “growing presence” of illegal miners, with on average 2,000 people a day intruding on its operating sites.

“KCC urges all illegal miners to cease from putting their lives at risk by trespassing on a major industrial site,” Glencore said.

Illegal mining is common and frequently deadly in Democratic Republic of Congo, where safety is often poor and risk-taking high.

Figures indicating the scale of the problem are sketchy, given that many mines are illegal and remote.