Inside luxurious lifestyle of world's most notorious dictators

Konstantin Sheiko
February 14, 2018

There is no shortage of dictators in human history, and every corner of our world has produced its own unique character, intimidating citizens and weaker neighbours alike. These dictators take and maintain total authority over their country’s wealth, depriving heir country’s citizens of vital resources, sometimes for many decades. It is not surprising that most dictators and their families become extremely wealthy, beyond the norm of possessions and opulence. This wealth in itself is not bad. However, these rulers, often elected to their offices democratically, have enriched themselves at the expense of the people and the nations they should be helping, qualifying for the shameful title of dictator, or sometimes even an axis of evil by the international community.   

It is worth noting that the number of ‘traditional dictators’ has been steadily declining for a while now. For example Europe, with a notable exception of Great Britain and Switzerland, hosted a swarm of dictators between two World Wars. In the aftermath of World War II, countries like the Spain , Portugal, Greece, or those belonging to the Soviet block were also run by the dictatorships. 20th century Latin America was conventionally associated with dictatorial characters, death squads, and massive violations of human rights. Now, although still beset with many economic and political problems, this continent is virtually free of dictators and their regimes. However, many of these European and Latin American dictators were out there for power only, while modern 21st century dictators are different in this respect. They insist on having an opulent lifestyles comparable to those of rich oil moguls, or top Hollywood stars.   

So where do we go to find modern day dictators in order to learn about their secretive lifestyles? Currently, Africa produces the bulk of world’s dictators, followed by the Middle East, former Soviet republics and, of course, North Korea. Recently deposed President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe, is said to be worth millions of dollars, due in part to being the financial beneficiary of military contracts and state mining concessions. Mugabe and his wife are said to own at least six properties within Zimbabwe including a multi-story mansion. Mugabe also owns several farms that he allegedly obtained by violent land reform programs against white farmers. At one point, President Mugabe and his wife came under scrutiny for spending almost a total of almost $15 million first-class luxury trips within a six month period.   

President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo holds a net worth of nearly $1 billion. Obiang made his wealth from his nation’s oil production, ruling the country for more than 40 years. At one point the President suspiciously took over the national treasury: his explanation was that he did it in order to avoid corruption from government officials! His lavish lifestyle includes owning a fleet of high end cars comprised of Bugattis, Maseratis and Bentleys, as well as an elite six-story period building in Paris. Some British media outlets have even alleged that Obiang is a cannibal. Obiang’s son seems to be following in his father’s luxury lifestyle footsteps. The UK media reported that he went on shopping sprees, leading him to spend over $80,000 at Gucci and $50,000 at Dolce & Gabbana, in one month. He also owns a 12-acre estate in Malibu, California worth approximately $35 million.  

Congolese President, Denis Sassou Nguesso is another African president that has made millions off of his oil rich country. Sassou and his family have been reported as spending millions of dollars when traveling. The President reportedly spent over $400,000 on hotel bills when he took a trip to New York and stayed at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Sassou’s son spends lavishly as well, showing credit card statements that add up to over $10 thousand. Purchases were shown to be made on a new wardrobe that featured exclusive designers, such as Louis Vuitton and Roberto Cavalli.    

Gabonese President, Ali Bongo Ondimba is another president that likes to capitalize off of his country’s income. Ondimba is said to have embezzled approximately 25 percent of his country’s gross domestic product, and although reportedly grossing even more money today, Ondimba is said to have a net worth of over $1 billion. He also owns a lavish townhouse in Paris that cost him $138 million. The townhouse sits on one acre of land in the heart of Paris and contains 14 bedrooms, a swimming pool, tennis courts and seven parking spaces.   

Former Libyan dictator and axis of evil member, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya had the benefit of capitalising on vast oil reserves for almost four decades to fund his entire family’s extravagant lifestyle. Gaddafi’s family enjoyed the opulent lifestyle of living in Regatta, a mini gated city along the beaches west of Tripoli, while their lives were protected by the elite squad of female bodyguards that looked like the catwalk models. Gadaffi’s villa is said to have been filled with Burberry couches, Pierre Cardin carpets and gold-plated cutlery. The dictator had a cache of weapons, some dipped in gold and others encrusted with jewels. Gaddafi also had a fully stocked and staffed private zoo for his children. When Gaddafi had his assets frozen in 2011, news broke out that his extreme wealth added up to $30 billion in the U.S., $2.4 billion in Canada, $1.7 billion in Austria, and another $1 billion in the U.K.   

According to media speculation, former Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, has been rumoured to possibly be the world’s richest man, with a fortune nearing $70 billion. Mubarak is said to have made his money through military contracts, kickbacks and ‘legitimate’ business activities. It’s surely not very difficult to be able to take cuts on all projects that take place within the country when you are the President. His fortune was amassed in offshore bank accounts, as well as in properties all around the world, from Paris to Beverly Hills. Mubarak also owned a six story mansion in the Knightsbridge section of London, as well as two yachts.   

Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad has found it easy to keep up a luxurious lifestyle owning around 60 to 70 percent of Syria’s assets. The al-Assad family has been in power in Syria for more than 40 years now. At one point, Asma al-Assad, the first lady of Syria, made the news of reportedly spending millions on luxury goods. Asma has also been vocal on her admiration for Christian Louboutin heels and Chanel dresses. It is estimated that al-Assad holds assets of up to $1.5 billion in assets, some held in Russia and Hong Kong.   

Infamous Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein loved his palaces, which is why he had one built in every city in order to remind the Iraqi people of his power. Hussein’s palace collection accounts for more than 70 exquisitely designed palaces. His decor included mirrored bedrooms, gold toilets, gold toilet paper dispensers and lamps shaped as women. Hussein and his sons adored gold plated Kalashnikov machine gun rifles and pistols. Hussein’s son had his own compound in the corner of one of the palaces that featured six-lane highways and a zoo filled with cheetahs and lions. According to the UK media outlets, Hussein also had a 270 foot yacht decked out in his normal gold decor that eventually went up for sale for approximately $25 million. The dictator had an estimated net worth of $2 billion.   

President of Uzbekistan for over 20 years, Islam Karimov has made former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan into a family business. Karimov has been accused of profiting off of the country’s money while using his daughters to disperse money throughout several countries in case they ever had to flee out of Uzbekistan. Karimov’s youngest daughter is said to have recently purchased an estate in Beverly Hills worth $58 million that features three kitchens, a built-in health spa and a 60 foot infinity pool. Other Central Asian leaders, most notably the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, also fit the description of what the dictator is all about. Nazarbayev has been running Kazakhstan since early 1990’s as a his own family business, having massed a huge fortune in the process.  

Finally, we conclude with notorious family dynasty of North Korean leaders. If Kim Il-Sung laid the foundations for a reclusive Communist state and ensured its survival during the devastation of the Korean War and its aftermath, his son, Kim Jong-Il took pleasure in the finer things in life, spending $300 million a year on luxuries. It is reported that Kim Jong-Il enjoyed the controversial shark’s fin soup and kept a royal wine cellar full with over 10,000 bottles. To add to his extravagance, Kim Jong-Il allegedly spent just about $1 million a year on Hennessey Cognac. This fearless dictator loved films so much that he kidnapped a famous film director dubbed, “the Orson Welles of South Korea” and his actress wife and forced them to produce an epic film for him. The narcissistic leader placed 34,000 statues of himself all around North Korea.    

Kim Jong-Il died in late 2011 leaving his son Kim Jong-un, to reign over North Korea and it appears he will be following in his father’s footsteps in his love for luxury. North Korea’s controversial supreme leader Kim Jong-un has an estimated $5 billion at his disposal. After a recent trip to North Korea, Dennis Rodman described Kim Jong-un’s life as being a, “seven-star” party consisting of constant cocktails, jet-skis, and yachts at the dictator’s private island enclave. You may only wonder what exactly does Kim spend a reported $600 million a year on?