Every time I hear that a billionaire has been arrested, I think “doesn’t that amount of money make one immune to such things?” Consider this, if you have a billion dollars, that isn’t just a billion dollars worth of purchasing power, it is also a billion dollars of influence. If you experience trouble, that’s a billion dollars that can work in your favor to make that trouble go away.
A government will send any number of officials after anyone who breaks their rules, but whether it’s a military officer, high ranking member of a police force, lawyers, judges, or even the politicians themselves, they are all human. Honor schmonor, at the end of the day they want bigger paychecks. Bribes exist for a reason and with effective bribery, it is surprising that any excruciatingly wealthy people ever go to prison.
Moving back to other methods of avoiding trouble, if those who want to put a billionaire behind bars won’t take bribes, there are people who can be paid as “convincers”. These people can be paid to make those officials go away or sway their opinions. The Richest doesn’t support these practices or encourage them, but they do exist. With all this in mind, there are some billionaires who have not been able to buy their freedom. Here is our look at some of the wealthiest individuals who have come under the scrutiny of the law and served prison time for their actions.
An honorable mention goes to one of the most recent billionaires to get into legal trouble; H. Ty Warner, the creator of Beanie Babies. He kept a pile of money, roughly $106 million, in a Swiss bank and avoided paying tax on it. A couple of months ago he was sentenced to community service and probation rather than jail time. A few other billionaires, such as Bernie Ecclestone; the chief of Formula One, Russian businessman Vladimir Yevtushenkov have also run into trouble with the law, but many have either been able to pay their way clear of jail time (Ecclestone) and others are able to use their legions of lawyers to delay process (which Yevtushenkov is doing now). With all the mentions out of the way, on to the list.
12. R. Allen Stanford
One of the biggest snakes to work in the financial business, Robert Allen Stanford starts off our list, having concocted a Ponzi scheme that has left many people broke to this day. While those defrauded in other Ponzi schemes have (in some cases) been reimbursed, Stanford’s victims have been less fortunate. His company boasted high returns for investors for years, but when American authorities investigated in 2009, they discovered that Stanford’s company was nothing more than an $8 million lie. In 2012, he was sentenced to 110 years in prison. As of late 2014, he is appealing his sentence and conviction.
11. Thomas Kwok
The man behind the largest real estate developer in Hong Kong; Sun Hung Kai Properties, which he and his brothers inherited from their father. Thomas and brother Raymond, were accused of bribing Rafael Hui, Hong Kong’s number two government official, back in 2012, and while Raymond was acquitted, Thomas was convicted of conspiracy, along with Hui. He is set to serve a five year sentence and was fined half a million dollars.
10. Bernie Ebbers
The Canadian-born former billionaire was the owner and founder of WorldCom; the massive telecommunications company that became the center of a massive accounting scandal back in the early 2000s. He defrauded investors, violating security laws and in 2005, he was found guilty of nine charges. His crimes were conspiracy, securities fraud and issuing false statements to securities regulators. He is serving a 25 year sentence and will not be released until 2028; at which point he will be in his late 80’s.
9. Ding Yuxin (Shumiao)
A Chinese businesswoman, Dig Yuxin, was sentenced to 20 years behind bars back in 2013, for having issued massive bribes to Liu Zhijun, China’s former railway minister. This is just one example of Chinese officials and business people being jailed for corrupt activity, as the government has cracked down on such in recent years. Yuxin had operated many businesses in previous decades, building an empire essentially out of nothing, but it was her bribery of Zhijun that became her undoing, as all of her assets were seized by the government.
8. Raj Rajaratnam
Seeking a better quality of life than increasingly violent Sri Lanka, J.M Rajaratnam relocated his family from Colombo to the United Kingdom. His son Rajakumaran, received his education in Britain and would go on to receive an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He became a lender and went on to found Galleon Group, a hedge fund, which he would use to become worth $1.5 billion. He was arrested in 2009 for alleged insider trading, and in 2011, he was found guilty of conspiracy and securities fraud. He was sentenced to eleven years in prison.
7. Bernie Madoff
Possibly the biggest fraud in history, Bernie Madoff is currently serving a prison sentence of 150 years for the biggest Ponzi scheme the world has ever known. He screwed investors out of everything, ultimately being worth around $20 billion at the height of his wealth. Now he is worth next to nothing, as he rots in prison. His two sons have also died since his arrest, one having committed suicide back in 2010, and the other of cancer last year. He claimed in an email to NBC early in 2015, that his greatest pain (much worse than losing so much for investors who trusted him) has been losing his sons without their forgiveness.
6. Huang Guangyu and Du Juan
Currently serving fourteen years in Chinese prison is businessman Huang Guangyu. His wife is currently serving a three year sentence as well. This would only be ideal if they were sharing a cell, but that is not the case. Guangyu was the richest man in China at one point, making around $3 billion in the electronics retail business, after, yes, you guessed it; starting out with nothing. He was convicted of bribery, manipulating stock prices and illegal foreign trading, while his wife was convicted of insider trading.
5. Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev
These Russian business partners were once the two richest men in the country, worth $15 billion at their peak. When the Soviet Union fell, Knodokovsky and Lebedev were two of the greatest benefactors of the privatization of industry, making a killing off of oil investments. In the early 2000s, the two were put on trial for tax evasion and money laundering, and subsequently imprisoned, though their trial is considered not only a political act, but also an example of Russia’s joke of a legal system. Khodorkovsky and Lebedev have been released, but still stand as examples of Russia’s ongoing struggle with malicious government authority.
4. Chey Tae-won
SK Group is one of the largest companies in Korea; with interests in energy, engineering, telecommunications and transport, just to name a few industries. The conglomerate was handed down from father Chey John-Hyun to son Chey Tae-Won. After a less-than-spectacular 2011, he was indicted and convicted to embezzlement of over $40 million and sentenced to four years in prison. He is serving time now, but the company is still appealing his sentence, and he maintains his innocence.
His brother Chey Jae-Woo, who many argue was not even involved with the alleged embezzlement, was also imprisoned for allegedly conspiring in the same crime.
3. Alfred Taubman
Sotheby’s is a massive company, present in dozens of countries worldwide, which deals in collectibles, real estate, art and auctioning of nice things, in the bluntest way possible. Alfred Taubman was the chairman of this company in the 1980s, through to the 2000s. He took the company over in the early 80’s when it had fallen on hard times. He turned things around, took the company public and made himself over $2 billion in the process. In 2002, he was convicted for a price fixing conspiracy carried out with another similar company, Christie’s. Taubman went to prison for ten months and was fined over $7 million.
2. Michael Milken
This one goes back to the late 1980’s, when Michael Milken, educated at Berkeley and later the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, was trading high yield bonds at an investment bank; Drexel Burnham Lambert. In 1990, he pleaded guilty to several counts of illegal trading related charges and ended up serving just under two years of jail time. Since getting out of prison, he has tried to maintain a better profile and has been active in charity work, creating foundations from think tanks to youth education groups.
1. Chung Mong-Koo
Chung Mong-Koo is the chairman of Hyundai, the South Korean automaker. As of 2015, he is worth just shy of $7 billion and is known as an obscenely hard working, family oriented man, who remains one of the most influential figures in that country. At 77 years old, he is considered a man with the attitude of someone far younger, and is probably not going to retire. Back in 2007, he was sentenced to three years in prison for having misused corporate funds. He was in for just a couple of months, but received a pardon due to his contributions to Korean society, in addition to his promise of further donations (over $1 billion) to Korean causes.