Vesco, Robert Lee

Vesco, Robert Lee

▪ American financier
born Dec. 4, 1935, Detroit, Mich., U.S.
died Nov. 23, 2007, Havana, Cuba

      American financier, once considered the boy wonder of international finance, who later became a fugitive from U.S. and other legal authorities. He was a key figure in certain American financial and political scandals of the early 1970s.

      The son of a Detroit autoworker, Vesco left school at age 16 to work as an apprentice in an automotive body shop. He was later a draftsman and worked in the Detroit aluminum industry. In 1957 he went to New York City as an administrative assistant in engineering for a chemical company. He gained financial interests in two small New Jersey manufacturing companies, and by the mid-1960s he had merged them to form International Controls Corporation. In October 1967 he added Fairfield (New Jersey) Aviation Corporation. He came to control many smaller companies, and he took annual sales from $1.3 million to more than $100 million within three years.

      In 1971 he acquired control of Investors Overseas Services (IOS), founded by Bernard Cornfeld. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accused Vesco and his associates of looting the IOS mutual fund empire of $224 million, defrauding thousands of investors. In 1973 Vesco was indicted for making illegal contributions totaling $250,000 to the reelection campaign of Pres. Richard M. Nixon (Nixon, Richard M.). In 1976 he was indicted by a U.S. federal grand jury on charges relating to his fraudulent schemes in IOS.

      He fled from the United States in 1972 and for various periods lived wealthily in Costa Rica, The Bahamas, Nicaragua, and Antigua. In all these countries he allegedly employed political bribery, and none granted occasional extradition requests from the United States and from Switzerland, where IOS had been headquartered. While abroad, Vesco reportedly increased his stolen wealth through further large investments, notably in international arms sales to such countries as Libya.

      About 1984 Vesco went to live in Cuba, where he allegedly had more than one home and his own private plane and yacht. In 1996 Cuban authorities threw Vesco in jail for economic crimes he committed there. Fidel Castro refused to extradite Vesco to the United States, and he was released from jail in 2005.

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Universalium. 2010.

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