The Real Richest Man in the World and 16 Other Secret Billionaires

  • The Forbes Billionaire List omits a number of the world’s richest people.
  • Vladimir Putin, for example, might be the richest man in the world — but it’s difficult to verify.

Can you name the richest person in the world? Odds are you’ll name Bill Gates or Warren Buffett. You wouldn’t be wrong, according to traditional sources. The Forbes Billionaire List is the go-to for tracking the world’s richest people. But what if the list wasn’t entirely accurate, meaning some people with huge fortunes don’t appear on it? Vladimir Putin is one example, and there are others.

Why aren’t they on most lists? Some rich people want to fly under the radar. Money attracts attention, and they’d rather live in peace. Others earned secret fortunes in less-savory ways. Drug lords, for example, won’t show up on the Forbes list. Neither will gangsters or dictators.

The fact is there’s a lot of dark wealth out there. Some estimates put Putin’s net worth around $70 billion. Recently, though, we learned it may be much higher. Still, we don’t see him discussed alongside Gates or Buffett because his wealth is tied up in obscure banks and investments all over the world. The same goes for many other people.

These 17 individuals and families control a vast swath of “dark wealth.” You won’t believe who owns the world’s largest private residence (page 9).

17. Ilham Aliyev: $500 million

The President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, and his wife pause before voting in an election

The President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, and his wife wait to vote in an election. | YouTube

  • No one knows the exact worth of oil-rich Azerbaijan’s former president because he stashes money overseas via investments and properties.

Ilham Aliyev only makes the equivalent of $228,000 annually, but occasional high-profile purchases within Aliyev’s family reveal much more. In 2010, the president’s 12-year-old son bought nine luxury waterfront mansions in southern Dubai for “about $44 million — or roughly 10,000 years’ worth of salary for the average citizen of Azerbaijan,” according to the Washington Post. These type of investments are typical of high-profile politicians and athletes who need to hide money.

Next: Money hides behind every family member of this prime minister.

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