Zug, 02.07.2013

Marc Rich (1934-2013)

It was repeatedly heard in the canton in the Eighties that "What is good for Marc Rich is good for Zug, too," and indeed it was alleged that even the mayor at the time, Walther A. Hegglin, said the same.
When asked last week on the telephone by a journalist of the Neue Zuger Zeitung, the 86-year-old was not sure if he ever really did say that, but he did say, "We owed a lot to Marc Rich." He further recalled that in the last budget he presented, in 1982, Rich was responsible for paying CHF 8 million in taxes. "This was twice as much as expected," he added.
Not that it was just the city council which benefited, either. It seemed he was a good customer to many businesses. Hotels, restaurants, flower shops; these all profited from Marc Rich, the latter in reference to his habit of giving flowers to the wives of his management team. In fact he was very rarely seen in Zug itself, though more frequently in some of his favourite restaurants. 
The local ice-hockey club, EVZ, also benefited from Rich's wealth. "He helped us out financially on many occasions over the years," said Fredy Egli, the former president of EVZ, who was also employed by Rich as a commodities trader. "And he came to watch on several occasions. What is remarkable is that, unlike investors in sports teams today, he never interfered in the club's business."
While Rich may have been a very successful trader, his activities provided the material for much hot debate, with the left-wing of the Eighties very much decrying commodity traders. Indeed young politicians of the day, such as Hanspeter Uster and Josef Lang, criticised very much the political interlocking between the authorities of the day and Marc Rich and the wall of silence surrounding them. Indeed Lang went as far as to say, "The taxes paid by Marc Rich are tainted with the blood, sweat and tears of the world's poor," on one of his first speeches as city councillor in 1982, when he was a member of the Socialist Workers' Party and indeed at a time time before the trader had come under the scrutiny of the American authorities. Even today, Lang maintains the involvement went very deep. "I mean, even Zug public prosecutor Rudolf Mosimann was on the governing body of many of Rich's companies."
After Rich was charged with tax evasion by the American authorities in 1983, both Switzerland and Zug came under increasing pressure. "Fortunately it was Rudolf Friedrich, a Federal Councillor at the time, who stood up to the Americans," said Georg Stucky, former member of the Zug government. "On one occasion the Americans even sent a delegation to Bern calling for some documents to be handed over. I remember Friedrich sending them packing back home without them as there was no legal basis for them to be handed over."
It was Friedrich's successor, Elisabeth Kopp, who also helped Rich avoid deportation to the United States, where he remained on the "most-wanted" list of the FBI until Clinton pardoned him in the last few hours of his presidency. It was only after he ceased to work for his company, in 1993, that hot debate over Rich's activities cooled down.