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    Billionaire Convicts And Inmates

    These individuals, who rank or have ranked among the world's richest, have spent time behind bars or are on the run.

    In Pictures: Billionaire Convicts And Inmates

    Wong Kwong Yu, 41, was once one of China's most celebrated and wealthiest entrepreneurs. He was the nation's richest person in 2006. Now he is behind bars, sentenced last week to 14 years in jail after having been convicted of insider trading and bribery.
    Another former Asian billionaire could be in even hotter water. Thailand's former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, was charged with terrorism this week. The Thai government claims he is responsible for spurring the anti-government Red Shirts during the violent chaos that inflamed the streets of Bangkok over the past two months leaving 88 dead. Thaksin denies involvement.

    This isn't the first time that Thaksin, who made his fortune in telecom, has been in legal trouble. In 2006 he was ousted from the Thai government and in 2008 he was convicted in absentia to two years in prison on corruption charges. He never made it behind bars as he was already out of the country when convicted, reportedly having fled to Dubai. But his family lost the bulk of its money, which was seized by the government. This time, if he were caught, the consequences would be graver. The former billionaire, who has told reporters from his undisclosed location that he did not incite violence, could face the death penalty.

    These two tycoons are just the latest examples of a long line of ultra rich outlaws, outcasts and convicts throughout history. There are today at least three former billionaires behind bars in addition to Wong. They include Russia's Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, who have already spent seven years in jail and are now on trial for additional charges; and R. Allen Stanford, the Texan financier accused (though not yet convicted) of running an $8 billion Ponzi scheme. Italy's Calisto Tanzi, Parmalat's co-founder was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2008 for masterminding Europe's largest bankruptcy; he appealed, but the decision was recently upheld.
    Rather than go to prison, other billionaires and former billionaires like Thaksin have opted to adapt to a life in exile or a life on the run from the law.

    Joaquim Guzman Loera ("El Chapo"), the world's most wanted billionaire, has a $5 million reward being offered for any information leading to his capture. El Chapo has been on the run for nine years after reportedly escaping from jail in a laundry cart in 2001. Even while on the run, however, he's been making a fortune selling drugs through the Sinaloa cartel, one of the biggest suppliers of cocaine to the United States.

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    US shunned billionaire Allen Stanford over fraud claims, says WikiLeaks
    21 Dec 2010

    Jailed: Sir Allen Stanford

    US diplomats expressed concern about the business dealings of Allen Stanford three years before the collapse of his financial empire amid allegations of fraud, according the latest leaked embassy cables posted on the WikiLeaks website.

    The Guardian, which has been publishing details of the cables, said the US embassy in Barbados raised the issue in a cable dated May 3 2006 after the ambassador attended a breakfast meeting with Stanford and Barbados' prime minister.

    The disclosure potentially raises fresh questions about the wisdom of the England and Wales Cricket Board to sign a deal in 2008 with the financier for England to play five Twenty20 matches against the West Indies for a 12 million prize.

    In February 2009, Stanford was charged by the US Securities and Exchange Commission with multiple violations of US securities laws in an alleged "massive" $8bn fraud.

    The 2006 embassy cable noted: "Allen Stanford is a controversial Texan billionaire who has made significant investments in offshore finance, aviation, and property development in Antigua and throughout the region. His companies are rumoured to engage in bribery, money-laundering and political manipulation."

    A comment appended to the cable added: "Embassy officers do not reach out to Stanford because of the allegations of bribery and money-laundering. The ambassador managed to stay out of any one-on-one photos with Stanford during the breakfast."

    Another cable revealed that billionaire businessman Sir Richard Branson said British entrepreneurs were "overeducated" and that schools did not prepare people for entering the business world.

    Meanwhile WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has criticised leaking of details of the sex assault charges he faces in Sweden - which were also published in The Guardian, saying it was intended to undermine his application for bail while he faced extradition proceedings.

    "The leak was clearly designed to undermine my bail application," he said in an interview with The Times.

    "Someone in authority clearly intended to keep Julian in prison."

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    WikiLeaks: rule of law in Mikhail Khodorkovsky trial merely 'gloss'
    Tom Parfitt
    Monday 27 December 2010

    US dismisses Russian efforts to show due process in tycoon's trial, whose verdict is due today, as 'lipstick on a political pig'

    Leaked WikiLeaks cable about the trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whose picture is brandished at a rally in Moscow, reaffirm US diplomats' view of Russia as a 'kleptocratic mafia state'.
    Photograph: Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

    The trial of Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky shows the Kremlin preserves a "cynical system where political enemies are eliminated with impunity", US diplomats say in classified cables released by WikiLeaks today.

    Attempts by the Russian government to demonstrate the rule of law is being respected during Khodorkovsky's prosecution are "lipstick on a political pig", says a communique to Washington from the US embassy in Moscow in December 2009.

    Khodorkovsky, 47, an oil tycoon who was arrested in 2003 and sentenced to eight years in jail for fraud two years later, will appear in court in Moscow today to hear the verdict in his second trial on embezzlement charges. Supporters of the man once Russia's richest say the Kremlin ordered the prosecutions in revenge for his funding of opposition parties.

    Khodorkovsky could get up to six more years in jail at the end of his current sentence in October next year, if convicted. His business partner, Platon Lebedev, faces the same punishment.

    While US officials have already publicly criticised the trial, which began in March last year, the baldness of the language in the secret cables is striking.

    Writing to Washington in December last year, a political officer in the US embassy in Moscow noted that one international legal expert believes the trial judge is trying to give Khodorkovsky's defence lawyers a chance.
    However, in a withering assessment, the officer adds:

    "The fact that legal procedures are apparently being meticulously followed in a case whose motivation is clearly political may appear paradoxical.

    "It shows the effort that the GOR [government of Russia] is willing to expend in order to save face, in this case by applying a superficial rule-of-law gloss to a cynical system where political enemies are eliminated with impunity."

    The diplomat's assessment reaffirms those made in US cables released earlier by WikiLeaks, in which Russia is described as a kleptocratic "mafia state" in which officials, oligarchs and organised crime are inextricably linked.

    It refers obliquely to a meeting in 2000 when Vladimir Putin, then still president, met Khodorkovksy and 20 other oligarchs and reportedly warned them to stay out of politics in return for their businesses being left in peace.

    "There is a widespread understanding," writes the diplomat, "that Khodorkovsky violated the tacit rules of the game: if you keep out of politics, you can line your pockets as much as you desire."

    The officer adds: "It is not lost on either elite or mainstream Russians that the GOR has applied a double standard to the illegal activities of 1990s oligarchs; if it were otherwise, virtually every other oligarch would be on trial alongside Khodorkovsky and Lebedev." At his annual TV question and answer session earlier this month, Putin, now prime minister, brushed off criticism off the trial. Russia had "one of the most humane court systems in the world". He added: "It is my conviction that a thief should be in jail."

    Khodorkovsky's Yukos oil company was confiscated and sold to state-controlled firms after his conviction. He fired back on Friday in a letter to Putin published in a Russian newspaper. He pitied Putin, a "not-young person, so upbeat and so alone before a boundless and remorseless country". The premier, said Khodorkovsky, was helmsman of a galley which "sails right over people's destinies" and "over which, more and more, the citizens of Russia seem to see a black pirate flag flying".

    Khodorkovksy also mocked Putin's recent television appearances with his new dog, Buffy. "Love of dogs is the only sincere, good feeling that pierces through the icy armour shell of the 'national symbol' of the beginning of the 2000s," he wrote. "A love of dogs has become a substitute for a love of people."

    The verdict in Khodorkovsky's trial was due on 15 December but a note pinned on the door of Moscow's Khamovnichesky court that morning said it had been delayed until tomorrow. Some analysts believe the delay was deliberate, in order to deflect media attention over the holiday period.

    Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are accused of embezzling the entire crude oil production of Yukos over a six-year period.

    A source close to Khodorkovsky predicted he "would likely remain in prison as long as the Putin administration is in power,", according to the US cables released today. Putin is widely expected to return as president in 2012 and could serve two more terms, until 2024.

    The judge is expected to spend several days reading the verdict.

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    Russia finds oil tycoon guilty

    A Moscow court on Monday found jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky guilty in his second corruption trial, in a judgement seen as a watershed in Russia's post-Soviet history that upset rights campaigners.

    The court found Khodorkovsky and his co-accused Platon Lebedev guilty of embezzlement and money laundering charges, the ITAR-TASS and Interfax news agencies reported.

    They had been charged with embezzling 218 million tonnes of oil from Khodorkovsky's Yukos oil giant between 1998 and 2003 -- a charge the defence team says is absurd.

    They were also charged with laundering 487 billion rubles (16 billion dollars) and 7.5 billion dollars received from the embezzled oil. The defence will appeal the verdict, his lead lawyer Vadim Klyuvgant told news agencies.

    Amid chaotic scenes, only a handful of reporters were allowed into the courtroom for the verdict and judge Viktor Danilkin then requested even those journalists to leave as the rest of the verdict was read out.

    "The court has established that M. Khodorkovsky and P. Lebedev committed embezzlement acting in collusion with a group of people and using their professional positions," said judge Viktor Danilkin in the judgement.

    The judge was still reading the details of the verdict at midday and it was not clear when the sentence would be delivered.

    The verdict was watched as a possible indicator of Russia's future direction under Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev, amid speculation that Putin is planning a return to the Kremlin in 2012 polls.

    Once the country's richest man, now its most prominent prisoner, Khodorkovsky, 47, is already serving an eight-year sentence for fraud on charges his supporters insist were trumped up by the authorities.

    But with his release scheduled for next year, Khodorkovsky was put on trial last year on charges of money laundering and embezzlement that could see the head of the now-defunct Yukos oil giant stay in jail until 2017.

    "I expected this judgement. But all the same I am upset," Lyudmila Alexeyeva, one of Russia's best known rights defenders told the Interfax news agency.

    "The judge would have had to have been a hero to have given an acquittal verdict."

    The pursuit of Khodorkovsky has been the most controversial legal action of the post-Soviet era.

    Khodorkovsky's supporters see him as a martyr punished for daring to challenge Putin by financing opposition parties but Russian officials view him as a corrupt tycoon who profited by breaking the law.

    The hundreds of supporters gathered outside the court shouted "Russia without Putin" and "Down with the police state". Police arrested around 20 people, Interfax said.

    But an advisor to Medvedev's flagship modernisation project Monday had made an impassioned plea for an acquittal, saying it was an essential message for foreign investment and to show change is possible.

    "Such a verdict would satisfy business, the West in the widest sense of the word and potential investors in Russia," said Igor Yurgens, head of The Institute of Contemporary Development think tank set up by Medvedev when he came to power in 2008.

    Moscow's Khamovnichesky court had been due to start reading the verdict on December 15, but unexpectedly postponed the announcement without giving an explanation.

    The next day Putin compared Khodorkovsky to US fraudster Bernard Madoff, jailed for 150 years, and observed that a "thief must be in prison" in comments decried by the fallen magnate's legal team as direct meddling.

    Aides later insisted that Putin was only referring to the first trial.

    Khodorkovsky launched his own lacerating attack against Putin on Friday, saying he pitied a man who could only feel love for dogs.

    "A love for dogs is the only sincere kind feeling that penetrates the armour of ice worn by the national symbol of the start of the millennium," Khodorkovsky wrote in an article for the Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

    Like many other billionaires, Khodorkovsky made his fortune in controversial loans-for-shares privatization in the 1990s but his supporters say he turned Yukos into Russia's most transparent company.

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