Deposed: Civil war
Exiled: Nigeria, The Netherlands
Wealth: $280 million – $3 billion
Campaigning on the slogan, “He killed my ma, he killed my pa, but I will vote for him”, Charles Taylor was elected President of Liberia in 1997. The Libyan-trained ex-guerrilla had already seized control of the country in an eight-year civil war and become Africa’s most powerful warlord. By the time he resigned in 2003, Taylor was facing war crimes charges brought by neighbouring Sierra Leone and had lost control of the bush to a new wave of rebels. After fleeing to Nigeria, he was extradited to Liberia and thence to Sierra Leone in 2006.
Taylor is now on trial in The Hague for war crimes—the first African leader to suffer this fate. Charges include instigating murder, mutilation, rape and sexual slavery. A verdict is expected later this year. Taylor also sold arms for blood diamonds and pocketed the proceeds. The UN team chasing his fortune (which some estimate at $3 billion) has drawn a blank, but records show Liberia’s largest timber company sent tax payments to Taylor’s private account and that millions of dollars flowed in from a web of banks in Hong Kong and New York. So the hunt continues.
Believe it or not, in the early 1990s, Taylor granted famous tele-evangelist Pat Robertson rights to mine Liberia’s diamonds.