«I was an easy target»


October 11, 2009

President Clinton set off a furor by granting him a pardon. But, even after 26 years in exile, billionaire Marc Rich vows he will “never” set foot in America again.

Rich, who fled to Switzerland rather than face prosecution for tax evasion and trading with the enemy, says in a new bio that the public outcry over the pardon told him it still isn’t safe to come home.

“[U.S. authorities] would look for some excuse to apprehend me,” the elusive commodities trading wizard tells Daniel Ammann in “The King of Oil.” “They might still have an upaid parking ticket of mine from 30 years ago.”

Ammann, the first journalist to persuade Rich to talk, reveals how close authorities came to nabbing the man who was long at the top of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. Once, Rich was spared only because London’s fog prevented his plane from landing at an airport where U.S. marshals had set a trap.

Rich all but admits he was protected by friends in foreign governments (intelligence Rich provided Israel’s Mossad was returned in kind) and in our own State Department. A Swiss official confirms to Ammann that a U.S. official helped foil a 1985 plan by former NYPD commissioner Howard Safir to snatch Rich and smuggle him out of the country.

Rich doesn’t hide his hatred for the man who sent him running – former U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani.

“He’s only interested in himself,” says Rich. “I was an easy target, very successful, making a lot of money, and Jewish…I was singled out…Mr. Giuliani escalated the case becasue he saw a chance to achieve more publicity for himself.”

Rich denies claims that he’s dealt in arms (though he admits he’s been approached). He confesses that he himself was stunned when Clinton pardoned him – “nobody actually expected that.” And he insists that his ex-wife, Denise, did not “buy” his pardon with her campaign contributions, giving most of the credit to Israeli PM Ehud Barak.

Asked if he repaid Denise for her help, he says, “No, I would never give money to my ex-wife.”

Not that Denise did badly in their divorce. She doesn’t dispute that she scored about $365 million. She blames the rupture of their 20-year marriage on Marc’s decision to uproot the family and her growing success as a songwriter.

“Marc was depressed, but I didn’t want to hear about being depressed,” she tells Ammann. “It wasn’t my fault we had to leave the country.”

The couple have since become friends, brought together by the death of their young daughter, Gabrielle (who’ll be remembered at the Oct. 20 Angel Foundation for Cancer Research gala here). But Marc admits Denise drove him mad because “she is always late. Still.”

Denise’s tardiness gave an opening for leggy German blond Gisela Rossi. “She was so manipulative,” claims Denise. “And she was always on time.”

Six months after divorcing Denise, Marc married Rossi, which he now calls one of his worst decisions of his life. “She got spoiled, with money and possessions,” he says.

Their 2005 divorce wasn’t as expensive as his split with Denise. So how much did it cost?

Laughs Rich: “I don’t want to remember.”


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