Frontier Markets

Aided By Corruption, Ex-Yemeni President Saleh May Have Netted Up To $64B During 33 Year Rule

Ex-president of Yemen Ali Abdullah Saleh (left) with ex-Libyan PM Muammar Gaddafi (right).

Ex-president of Yemen Ali Abdullah Saleh (left) with ex-Libyan PM Muammar Gaddafi (right).

Amidst a raft of allegations of political manipulation, including aiding the overthrow of Yemen’s government last month, a report presented to the United Nations Security council on Tuesday said that Yemen’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has amassed a personal fortune of up to $64 billion.

The report — quoting unnamed government sources and was compiled by a panel of four experts — said that during Saleh’s 33 years in power that he may have netted up to around $2 billion per year – a significant amount of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) which averaged $11.5 billion between 1990-2013, according to the World Bank.

“[Saleh] is alleged to have amassed assets between $32 billion and $60 billion … 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,” according to the report from experts, who monitor violations of UN sanctions on Yemen.

Most of this wealth was believed to have been transferred abroad under fake names or the names of others holding the assets on his behalf, the report said.

The assets are believed to be hidden in at least twenty countries and consist of cash, gold, shares, and other valuable commodities.

Should the upper estimate of Saleh’s wealth prove true, he would be the world’s fifth richest person based on Forbes Magazine’s list of the world’s most wealthiest people, coming in just above Oracle’s CEO Larry Ellison who has an estimated worth of $54.1 billion.  According to the upper estimate, if true, Saleh would rank as the Middle East’s richest businessman, eclipsing Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal al-Saud, whose empire is valued at $22.9 billion. Al-Saud has made claims that Forbes has undervalued his fortune by $10 billion.

As outrageous as Saleh’s alleged wealth may seem, it’s actually well below what other previous Arab leaders are thought to have accumulated over their years in power.

Muammar Gaddafi, who ruled oil-rich Libya for over 40 years, was estimated to have brought in as much as $200 billion  before being ousted in 2011, which would have made him richer than the world’s wealthiest man, Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, who’s wealth is estimated by Forbes at nearly $80 billion.

Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, who was also ousted in 2011, was said to have a fortune worth between $40 billion and $70 billion, however the Washington Post reported that Mubarak may have a staggering $700 billion worth of holdings that consisted of “cash, gold and other state-owned valuables” including “75 tons of Egyptian gold held by the U.S. Federal Reserve” which would have exceeded Egypt’s GDP of around $500 billion, and would have easily made Mubarak the wealthiest man in the world.

While the UN report questioned how Saleh had actually accumulated his vast wealth, it is still unclear exactly how much was actually stolen and how, and crucially where and how much of this cash may be hidden.

Saleh stepped down in 2012 in a deal which granted him immunity from prosecution and also allowed him to stay within the country. The transitional government that succeeded him, headed by Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, was toppled last month as Saleh was accused by some of possibly using his wealth and connections to have played a role.

Yemen is one of the poorest nations in the world, ranked 154th out of 187 in the UN’s Human Development Index, and is ranked worst in the world for gender equality.

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