U.S. News

U.S. fugitive financier Vesco dead, relative says

HAVANA (Reuters) - Fugitive U.S. financier Robert Vesco, notorious for his nefarious dealings in the 1970s, died of cancer in Havana in November, according to a relative who said his family did not know where his money is.

Vesco, 71 at the time of his reported death, had lived in Cuba since the 1980s after fleeing charges in the United States that he bilked investors of more than $200 million.

He ended up spending years in Cuban jail for defrauding a member of Fidel Castro’s family.

Vesco was said to be worth many millions of dollars, but how much of his fortune remained or, according to the relative, where it might be stashed was unknown.

The relative, who requested anonymity, said Vesco died on November 23 and was buried the following day in Havana. News of his death was first reported on Friday by the New York Times.

Records at the Cuban capital’s Colon Cemetery show that a Robert Lee Vesco was buried there in November in a tomb belonging to a family called Quesada Rives.

On Monday, the tomb, which does not have his name, was topped by a handful of dying flowers.

“We don’t know where his fortune is, but, yes I can assure you that he died, because I was at the funeral,” said the relative, who lives in a rundown Havana apartment.

“It was a small ceremony, with a few family members and friends.”

The Times said it viewed photographs and videos of a man resembling Vesco in a casket with his longtime Cuban companion looking over him, but the relative said no videos or photographs were taken.

Vesco, from Detroit, Michigan, was a millionaire by the time he was 30. But after the U.S. charges were brought against him, he spent decades on the run in the Caribbean and Central America before settling in Cuba.

Along with bilking investors, he was accused of illegally contributing to President Richard Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign, attempting to bribe U.S. officials in a deal to let Libya buy U.S. planes, and drug trafficking with a Colombian drug cartel.

In 1996, Vesco was sentenced to 13 years in prison for defrauding a Cuban biotechnology lab run by Fidel Castro’s nephew in a scheme to produce a supposed wonder drug.

Reporting by Esteban Israel, editing by Chris Wilson