Henry Ford once said, “I am ready to account for any day in my life, but don’t ask me how I made my first million.”
That’s not an uncommon sentiment from some incredibly wealthy men and women – the metaphorical cloaks and daggers often conceal truths of some influential families’ fortunes. Indeed, many very wealthy individuals follow Henry Ford’s approach on secrets. They are willing to lay down everything about their lives – with the glaring exceptions of some specifics.
Although Henry Ford was surely onto something when asking for privacy in certain parts of his life, not everyone is able to keep the bodies safely tucked away at the back of their closets for long. Take the following five billionaires felons who were convicted, on the run, or recently released after their various crimes were uncovered.
6. S. Curtis “Curt” Johnson
In March of 2011, Samuel Curtis Johnson Jr. of the Johnson Family Enterprises, was accused of and charged with sexual assault of his step-daughter after claims that he was sexually assaulting his step-daughter for a period of three years, starting when the girl was 12 years-old. The secret came to light when Johnson’s therapist told law enforcement about the billionaire’s activities, which he happened to mention during a therapy session.
Although he was charged, he wasn’t convicted immediately as bond conditions were altered to let Johnson travel for business and counselling, until he was finally released on a $500,000 cash bond with an order to stay away from any young female individual.
The trial didn’t stop there for the billionaire though, as in January 2014 the judge in charge of the trial demanded further action on the case. In June 2014, Johnson pleaded guilty to lesser charges of two misdemeanors and was fined $6,000 and sentenced to 4 months in jail – incredibly, Johnson’s lawyer secured an agreement that he would not be registered as a sex offender.
5. Wong Kwong Yu
Wong Kwong Yu, 41, is a retail businessman best known for his electronics business, GOME. In 2010, Won Kwong Yu was sentenced to a 14-year sentence for bribery and insider trading.
The court stated that Wong was using classified information to trade shares of Beijing Centergate Technologies, of which he was one of the biggest shareholders. He also reportedly bribed police and tax officers in order to make contacts in the government, which amounted to $740,000 in total bribery or ‘favours’.
4. Robert Allen Stanford
Once known to the general public as one of the richest people in the World, Robert Allen Stanford is now spending 110 years in jail for running a $7 billion Ponzi scheme. The former billionaire was living the lifestyle of the extremely wealthy, purchasing millions of dollars worth of billionaire toys including jets and helicopters, all bought from fraudulent profits.
In 2009, the law finally caught up to him when it was reported that Stanford was selling fraudulent certificates of deposit to individuals. The fake certificates originated from Stanford’s offshore bank based in Antigua. In 2012, he was officially sentenced to 110 years of jail time for his crimes.
3. Platon Lebedev
This one isn’t quite so straightforward a case, as is often the case in Russia these days. Lebedev, former billionaire and CEO of Group Menatep, was business partners with Mikhail Khodorkovsky, businessman and currently the head of Group Menatep.
Lebedev was accused, along with his business partner, of embezzling more than 200 million tons of oil and then money laundering the profits. Amidst theories that the men’s imprisonment was political – Lebedev’s partner Khodorkovsky publicly opposed the current political regime in Russia – Amnesty International listed the two men as prisoners of conscience.
The controversy saw Lebedev’s sentence reduced by ten years, and he has been released as of January 2014 with a debt of $480 million in back taxes, and restrictions prohibiting him from travelling out of the country from which he was imprisoned.
2. Domenico Dolce & Stefano Gabbana
The two designers were originally accused in 2011 of tax evasion during the sale of their company to holding company Gado S.R.L., based in Luxembourg. The investigation on Dolce and Gabbana started in 2008, four years after the sale of the fashion company. The investigator on the case found that both designers sold the company in order to avoid Italian taxes. As of April 2014, both designers are sentenced to 18 months of jail time – although lawyer Massimo Dinoia is working on another appeal.
Domenico Dolce is currently worth $1.4 billion. Stefano Gabbana is currently worth $1.4 billion.
1. Kemal Uzan & sons
Kemal Uzan and his family members have been on the run since 2003, when he was charged of embezzlement. Uzan was known for his cell phone empire, which was the second-largest of its kind in Turkey and made him the fourth richest man in the country.
His company, Uzan Group, is no longer under his or his family’s name. The family – Kemal Uzan, his wife, Melahat, his sons, Cem and Hakan, and daughter, Aysegul Akay – are all wanted by the Turkish authorities. After being on the run for 7 years, the family finally settled in France, in 2010, seeking asylum in the country.
Kemal Uzan’s son, Cem, was sentenced to 23 years of jail time in April of 2010, on bribery and fraud charges. On top of the Turkish charges, failure to repay a $2.7 billion loan has increased the heat on the Uzan family. The loan was issued by Motorola and Nokia in 2000, in order to help increase the profits and capacity of the Uzans’ Turkish cell phone company. After the family failed to repay the loan, they were sued by Motorola and Nokia for $4.8 billion.