Dictatorships usually lack checks and balances, resulting in power, particularly money, being concentrated in the government’s accounts. Here are some of the world’s richest dictators in history.
When the assets of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his kin were frozen in March 2011, some of the numbers that came out were astonishing. The U.S. had seized $30 billion of the family's investments. Canada had frozen $2.4 billion, Austria had frozen $1.7 billion and the U.K. had frozen $1 billion. It was reported that these figures were nowhere close to his actual wealth. According to senior Libyan officials, Gaddafi secretly put more than $200 billion in bank accounts, real estate and corporate investments around the world before he was killed.
A former ophthalmology student, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has enriched not just himself, but also those closest to him. The Guardian reported that Assad has amassed realizable assets of around $1.5 billion for his family and close associates. According to intelligence firm Alaco, Assad holds assets in Russia, Hong Kong and a range of offshore tax havens.
A military head for over 30 years, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak amassed wealth while his citizens continued to struggle on a daily basis. The 82-year-old dictator was said to have amassed an estimated $70 billion over 30 years, with his sons and family controlling and taking cuts on all projects that took place in Egypt. The Mubaraks lived life regally, jetting around the world and living in palaces. One of the country's top prosecutors alleged that the Mubarak family appropriated more than $700 billion of public funds.
Ali Abdullah Saleh
Former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh ruled over the country for 30 years until he ceded power on his own terms. He is said to be worth between $32 billion and $60 billion.
Zine al Abidine Ben Ali
Former Tunisian President Zine al Abidine Ben Ali was sentenced to 35 years in prison in absentia. Overthrown by the Jasmine revolution, he lived an excessive life while his countrymen struggled under human rights atrocities. His wife is said to have made her exit with gold bars worth $37 million. Ben Ali is said to have a net worth of $17 billion.
Former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe turned once-rich Zimbabwe into his personal playground, killing most of his rivals and looting Zimbabwe for good measure. According to a diplomatic cable sent by the U.S. Embassy in Harare and published by Wikileaks, his assets are rumored to exceed $1 billion. The cable says Mugabe reportedly owns six residences and multiple farms.
Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
Equatoguinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has looted and plundered his oil-rich country, sharing none of the country's wealth with the citizens. He is said to be worth around $500 million, while his country's citizens live on less than $1 per day. Meanwhile, his son continues his legacy of a lavish lifestyle which includes a $35-million estate in Malibu and two $1.7-million Bugatti Veyrons.
The Bottom Line
Most of these dictators had a share in every pie, spent a lot of time covering up money trails and amassed fortunes for their family members. Others brokered deals that would prevent them from ever being prosecuted. Some of these rulers quietly handed the reins to self-appointed successors or guerrilla fighters. The net worth of some of these dictators would easily put royalty to shame.