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Marc Rich, businessman controversially pardoned by President Clinton, dies

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(JTA) — Marc Rich, the businessman whose pardon by outgoing President Bill Clinton in 2001 stirred controversy, has died.

Rich died following a stroke Wednesday at his home in Switzerland. He was 78.

He was among a flurry of pardons given by Clinton on the last day of his presidency. Clinton later said he regretted granting the pardon, calling it “terrible politics.”

Rich had fled the U.S. for Switzerland in 1983 to avoid an indictment on charges of wire fraud, racketeering, trading with Iran during an embargo and evading more than $48 million in U.S. income taxes. He could have faced more than 300 years in prison.

Influential Israelis including ex-Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the former chief of the Mossad intelligence agency, Shabtai Shavit, had urged Clinton to pardon Rich, according to reports.

Rich contributed more than $80 million to major institutions in Israel, including Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Ben-Gurion University, the Israel Museum and the Jerusalem Foundation. He also helped to bring dozens of Jews from Ethiopia and Yemen to Israel, according to his foundation in Israel.

In addition, Rich’s ex-wife, songwriter Denise Rich, donated $201,000 to the Democratic Party in 2000, according to Federal Election Commission records.

While living in Switzerland, Rich founded a commodities trading company that became the forerunner of Glencore Xstrata Plc.

In 1981, Rich and a partner bought 20th Century Fox. Three years later he sold his interest to Rupert Murdoch for $250 million, according to The New York Times.

Rich, a Belgium native, held several citizenships, including U.S., Spanish and Israeli. He is to be buried Thursday in Israel, according to Reuters.

His family fled the Nazis and immigrated to the United States in the early 1940s.

 

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