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Secret billionaires: five people you didn't know were super rich

·5 min read
Business people in private jet. Young business woman and senior business man working while flying in aircraft. Successful work partners.
Business people in private jet. Young business woman and senior business man working while flying in aircraft. Successful work partners.

Forbes and Bloomberg track the net worth of the wealthiest people. But what if we said there were secret billionaires too?

For most part, finance magazines such as Forbes or Fortune calculate the net worth of an individual based on a complex set of calculations. These calculations are based on their filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or its local equivalent. Technically speaking, these lists are based on self-declaration by individuals of their wealth. So if there were, say, someone who ran a billion-dollar company that wasn’t publicly listed, they wouldn’t be obliged to file anything with the SEC (or the local equivalent). Similarly, imagine if you were the ruler of an oil-rich country or a dictator who’s managed to grab power, it’s a good assumption to make that you wouldn’t exactly want to advertise your wealth. And if you didn’t it would be fairly easy for you to simply not make your income public. 

Vladimir Putin is believed to be one such person, as are Bashar al-Assad and Kim Jong-un. Crime lords such as Dawood Ibrahim are also said to be billionaires, but since they live outside the law and, well, don’t file their taxes we will never know the truth. We’ve listed out these and other secret billionaires who don’t advertise their wealth here. Since magazines such as Forbes have stopped listing out rulers who’ve inherited a fortune or a country from their forefathers (such as several rulers in the Middle East) there’s a considerably long list of mindbogglingly rich people who you most likely haven’t even heard of because their wealth simply cannot be estimated. Here is a fresh set of names who are probably billionaires but we don’t know otherwise.

Wen Jiabao: $2.7 billion

Wen Jiabao
Wen Jiabao

The Premiere under Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao held the post for ten years – between 2003 and 2013. Just a year before his term drew to a close, The New York Times did an explosive exposé of him and his family’s wealth. The report estimated that Jiabao had managed to create a complex web of investments and hidden it under the name of different members of his family. According to the report, the Jiabao family had made about $2.7 billion for the duration he ran the country. Of course the government and Jiabao himself denied the reports.

Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein: $5 billion

Hans-Adam II
Hans-Adam II

Liechtenstein is the fourth smallest country in Europe with an area of just 160 sq km. The microstate, located in the alps between Switzerland and Australia is a semi-constitutional monarchy whose head is the Prince of Liechtenstein. The current prince is Hans-Adam II whose powers are quite extensive.

Prince Hans-Adam II owns a private bank, has extensive land holdings and has made some smart investments over the years. The LGT Bank, which the prince, his three siblings and their children own wholly is itself worth $26 billion. He and his family also have $1.4 billion that they’ve invested in the Princely Fund that the bank created at the end of the last century. The Princely Fund is also open to other investors who can benefit from the investment that the royal family makes. Since its inception, the find has achieved a gross return of 486 per cent.

It also helps that the prince is among the largest private land owners in Austria where he grows grains, uses the wood from the trees as timber etc. He also owns a winery that has vineyards in Liechtenstein and Austria that contribute to his wealth and make the 72-year-old the richest monarch in Europe.

Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan: $15 billion

Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan

Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan is the President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). As the chairman of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, he manages $875 billion in assets. This is the largest amount of money managed by any head of state in the world. By some estimates, his entire family could be worth $150 billion. As for Khalifa bin Zayed himself, he is said to be worth $15 billion. As someone who’s been the president the emirate since 1971, one would imagine this to be a fairly conservative estimate, no?

Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia: $18 billion

Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia
Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia

Just ahead of the UAE ruler is Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the King of Saudi Arabia who is believed to be worth $18 billion. With an abundance of oil wells in his country, Salman bin Abdulaziz makes his money from natural gas and petroleum. However, his son Mohammed bin Salman or MBS is said to be making a move towards more sustainable sources of energy such as wind and solar to align the world’s gradual but certain shift towards renewable energy.

Maha Vajiralongkorn, King of Thailand: $43 billion

Maha Vajiralongkorn, King of Thailand
Maha Vajiralongkorn, King of Thailand

Following the death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 2016, his son Vajiralongkorn ascended the throne. With this he became the tenth in the line to sit on the throne. By some estimates, Vajiralongkorn is worth $43 billion as of early this year. Much of his wealth comes from the 23 per cent stake in Sian Commercial Bank. The bank is one Thailand’s largest lenders. He also owns a stake in the country’s largest industrial conglomerate, Siam Cement Group and has thousands of acres of land in prime locations and apparently as many as 40,000 rental leases with real estate developers.

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