Top Ten regional leaders by their wealth – An Nahar spills the beans on despots and their fortunes
Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former Yemeni president made the headlines recently when it transpired that his wealth was worth a staggering $60. And yet, the Middle East has long been a region blessed with wealth and plagued by war. These two characteristics make for quite a few filthy rich dictators who have ruled long and hard and have amassed obscene levels of wealth in the process.
The number of wealthy dictators in the region is staggering, as is their looted fortunes. The top despot may not be a surprise, but no 2 and 3 might be.
10- King Abdullah II Ibn Al-Hussein of Jordan
With a net worth of $750 million, as last recorded, the King of Jordan is the poorest of them all. Although most of us wouldn't mind having such a considerable fortune at our fingertips. The King of Jordan's exact net worth has not, however, been disclosed in public domain, as is generally done with other rich monarchs around the globe.
9- Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Qatar
With $2 billion to his name, this Qatari Sheikh can afford to live quite the lavish life. The Al Thani ruling family is the largest of all the Gulf countries, and it accounts for one fifth of Qatar's 300,000 citizens with revenues from, among other things, oil and gas.
8- Saddam Hussein, Iraq
The former Iraqi president who ruled from 1979 to 2003 had a net worth of $6 billion. According to Forbes magazine, these riches come mostly from illegal oil selling. His son Uday allegedly controlled smuggling across the Iraqi borders, and despite American and allied naval forces trying to keep illicit shipping in check, most ships made their smuggling runs successfully.
7- Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia
With $10 billion, the former president of Tunisia's huge financial empire controlled "between 30 and 40% of the Tunisian economy," according to BBC. He has significant assets in all sectors of the economy: banks, insurance, distribution, transport, tourism, property, etc.
6- Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Kuwait
The Emir of Kuwait has $14 billion, a wealth based primarily on stipends from oil reserves and global properties, as well as global investments and international family interests.
5- Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen
The former Yemeni president, with an impressive $60 billion, has allegedly amassed assets estimated at $32 to $60 billion during his 33 years in power, according to a UN report. He transferred most of his assets to around 20 countries "under false names or the names of others holding the assets on his behalf". The report also says that "The origin of the funds used to generate Ali Abdullah Saleh's wealth is believed to be partly from his corrupt practices as president of Yemen, particularly relating to gas and oil contracts where he reportedly asked for money in exchange for granting companies exclusive rights to prospect for gas and oil in Yemen."
4- Hosni Mubarak, Egypt
The former Egyptian president, who ruled from 1981 to 2011, amassed $40 to $70 billion. Much of his wealth is distributed among British and Swiss banks or is tied up in real estate in cities like London, New York and Los Angeles. During his 30 years as president and many more as a senior military official, Mubarak had access to investment deals with hundreds of millions of dollars in profit. Most gains were taken offshore and deposited in secret bank accounts. Mubarak purchased property in Manhattan and has exclusive Beverly Hills addresses on Rodeo Drive. Not bad for a dictator.
3- Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran
Iran's supreme leader has $95 billion to his name, which is more than the value of his oil-rich nation's current annual petroleum exports, according to Reuters. He controls Setad, an organisation that holds stakes in nearly every sector of Iranian industry: finance, oil, telecommunications, production of birth-control pills and even ostrich farming! The sources of wealth know no bounds
2- Bashar Al Assad, Syria
The Syrian president, with $122 billion, ranks very high on the list of rich dictators. He was elected as president after the death of his father, Hafez Al Assad, in 2000. His father had ruled the country for 30 years. Before being elected as president, Bashar Al Assad served as political advisor to his father, and held a lot of political power. He was criticized for being involved in rampant corruption.
1- Muammar Gaddafi, Libya
The former Libyan leader, other than being extremely eccentric and odd, was also the richest dictator in the Middle East, with a staggering $200 billion to his name. His wealth was distributed among bank accounts, real estate and corporate investments around the world before he was killed, and were his wealth distributed among Libyan citizens, each would receive about $30,000! He was one of the most rapacious and one of the most bizarre world leaders, and the richest as well.