As F.Scott Fitzgerald said to Ernest Hemingway, “The rich are different from you and me.” “Yes,” Hemingway was reported to have replied. “They have money.” And billionaires seem to be at the top of the pile. Worldwide, there are only around 1,600. But all that money brings with it bad, as well as good.
They can have anything they want. Sometimes that is a good thing, but sometimes that is a bad thing. Sometimes it’s drugs. Sometimes it’s sex. Often, it’s both. And sometimes somebody wants to get even with the rich and powerful. Or maybe they just want the money. These fatal fortune billionaires were either rumored to be, or convicted killers, or victims themselves. All the money in the world (and the lawyers it can buy) probably saved some of them, but for some, their billions just weren’t enough.
12. John McAfee
After Intel bought him out for $8 billion, software guru and billionaire John McAfee moved to Belize. In 2012, he was brought in for questioning in Belize, after his neighbor, Gregory Faull was shot to death. The police burst in on him when he was in bed with his girlfriend. McAfee said he feared the police would kill him, and fled Belize. He ended up in a detention center in Guatamala for some time, before being deported back to the United States. The Belize authorities apparently aren’t pursuing McAfee, but Faull’s family is. They are suing him, claiming either McAfee killed Faull or ordered the killing. Two of his former girlfriends are named in the suit.
11. Edouard Stern
The billionaire French banker, a friend of the French President, was little known outside France. That changed in 2005, when he was found shot dead in his Geneva apartment, following a sadomasochistic bondage session, dressed head to toe in a latex cat suit. It was claimed that he was a bisexual who was into the rough sex trade. His long time lover and former prostitute, Cecile Brossard, was arrested and convicted of the murder. She was paroled in 2010.
10. Hans Rausing
In 2012, when they found Eva Rausing in the Chelsea home, she had been dead for some time and was decomposing. Inexplicably, her husband Hans, had hidden her body for two months and told the servants she was still alive. The London police arrested Rausing. Eva Rausing’s death was “unexplained” and Rausing was later charged, but only with delaying a burial. The Rausings had met some years before, while they were both in drug rehab in the United States and crack cocaine plagued their existence for much of their married life. Rausing, the heir to the Tetra Pak billions, has remarried. His second wife’s grandfather was acquitted in the so-called “White Mischief” case of the murder of his wife’s lover in colonial Kenya, in 1941.
9. Robert Durst
Troubled son of property mogul Seymour Durst, Durst reportedly became a cross-dresser when he moved to Texas in 2000. He was arrested in 2001, when body parts of his Galveston neighbor, Morris Black washed ashore at Galveston Bay. Headlines screamed, “Where’s the head?” He claimed self-defense, admitting he had used a saw to cut up Black’s body. In 2003, he was acquitted. Durst had a history with the police. Years before, his wife, Kathleen McCormack had disappeared without a trace and Susan Berman, a friend of his who was said to know about the disappearance, was the victim of an execution-style murder. While he was questioned about both women, he was never charged. In 2014, he was arrested following an incident at a CVS Pharmacy, where he allegedly exposed himself and urinated on a candy rack.
8. Susan Cummings
This story has it all: sex, money, an heiress named Susan Cummings with a Virginia estate, and a polo playing Argentinian lover named Roberto Villegas. Cummings’ father was a billionaire arms dealer, and Susan pretty much got whatever she wanted. And apparently, when she met Villegas at a polo match in 1994, she wanted him. They became lovers, and Villegas began working on Susan’s farm. It depends on who you talk to. His friends say he was even tempered and that he cared for Susan. She has said that she was afraid of him. In fact, on the day she shot him, she had rather suspiciously gone to the sheriff to say just that. Later that day, she called to say she had shot him after he had attacked her with a knife. He was dead on her kitchen floor. Police doubted her story, and thought her knife wounds might have been self-inflicted, and she was brought to trial. The verdict? Involuntary manslaughter. She got 60 days, serving only 51 days.
7. Michael Rockefeller
The son of billionaire Nelson Rockefeller, Michael graduated from Harvard and pursued his passion for exploration. While on a trip to New Guinea in 1961, he disappeared. Natives later admitted to having killed him. His body was never found. As cannibalism was rife in New Guinea in those days, many believe his killers feasted on his remains.
6. Arkady “Badri” PatarKatsishvili
A wildly successful Georgian business tycoon, Badri was responsible for the success of many Russian companies. He smoked and drank to excess, and was a larger than life controversial figure, who claimed that the Georgian government wanted him dead and planned to kill him. On the night of February 12, 2008, he complained of feeling unwell, collapsed and died at his home outside London. Doctors diagnosed the cause of death as a massive heart attack, but speculation was rife in the international press, that he had been poisoned by substances used by the KGB to bring on heart attacks, in effect, making murder look like a natural death. Incredibly, the multi-billionaire died intestate and the subsequent battle over his fortune was bitter and protracted.
5. Shrien Dewani
The multi-billionaire Indian businessman, Shrien Dewani married his beautiful wife Anni, in 2010, and set off for a honeymoon in South Africa. After the couple had eaten out one night, she was kidnapped and found dead from a gunshot wound to the neck. A taxi driver named Zola Tongo and his accomplice were arrested. The driver later claimed that Dewani had paid him R15,000 (US$1,400) to kidnap and kill his wife. The trial in South Africa began in the Autumn of 2014, with Dewani proclaiming his innocence. A cell mate of Tongo’s has said that the driver had admitted to framing Dewani and that he had planned to kidnap the woman and have her rich husband pay a ransom.
4. Edmond J. Safra
Edmond J. Safra, a Jewish banker and many times billionaire, was staying at his Monaco penthouse when a fire took his life, in December of 1999. As someone has said, Monaco is a sunny place for shady people. Safra had been rumored to be involved in money laundering. It was also rumored that he had crossed the Russian Mafia and was on their hit list. He had 11 machine gun toting ex-Mossad bodyguards. But on the night he died, the guards were elsewhere and Safra only had two nurses in attendance. One of them, Vivian Torrente, died with Safra, barricaded in a bathroom that he refused to come out of. The other nurse, American Ted Maher, was arrested for setting the fire and signed a confession in French. He did not speak French, and claimed that two hooded men had broken into the apartment. Rumors swirled. Some said Safra had been shot, while others hinted that the Russian Mafia had been responsible. Safra’s glamorous widow, Lily, had been in her rooms at the apartment and escaped unharmed.
3. Wojciech Janowski
In May of 2014, multi-billionaire, Helene Pastor was gunned down in Nice, in a mafia style execution that killed her and her long-time chauffeur. Two men with shotguns fled the scene. Shortly after, police arrested her daughter Sylvia, and her long-time lover, Wojciech Janowski. Janowski, a Cambridge graduate and the Polish Honorary Consul to Monaco, had allegedly masterminded the plot and had paid a sports coach hundreds of thousands of dollars to arrange the killing. It was what the French would call a “crime crapuleux”. They did it for the money, some $20 billion worth of it.
2. Forrest Hayes
In November of 2013, Google executive and family man, Forest Hayes was found dead on his 50 foot yacht in Santa Cruz, California. Video footage showed Alix Tichelman, a high priced call-girl, originally from Georgia, casually drinking a glass of wine before abandoning an unconscious Hayes and fleeing the scene. He died from a heroin overdose, and the original charge of second degree murder was meant to signal she hadn’t done anything to help. She was lured back to Santa Cruz by the promise of a rich client waiting for her in a hotel and arrested.
1. Rebecca Zahau
The July 2011, death of 32 year old Rebecca Zahau, found nude, hanging from a banister in her billionaire boyfriend’s house, was deemed a suicide, even though she was bound hand and foot and traces of tape were reportedly found on her legs. A tee shirt was wrapped around her face and stuffed in her mouth. Her boyfriend, Jonah Shacknai, has since sold the house. Her family believes she was murdered. In 2013, they filed a wrongful death suit again Shacknai’s ex-wife Dina, his brother Adam and Dina’s sister, asking for $10 million in damages for killing Rebecca.