Meet the Man Who Has Found Dictators' Secret Fortunes

Jules Kroll, 80, has had a legendary career
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 19, 2021 3:20 PM CDT
There Are Thousands of Private Eyes Thanks to Him
"His exploits have become like folktales in the industry: the time he found the KGB’s secret bank accounts in Switzerland, or his quest to trace the offshore fortune of Saddam Hussein."   (Getty Images)

Jules Kroll is arguably the world's most famous private eye, and he was seeking a redemption piece, writes Simon Shuster for Time. The 80-year-old New Yorker was looking to give an interview, and Shuster obliged. It came after some years of press that wasn't so flattering, among it the revelation that Harvey Weinstein once employed Kroll's firm to dig into an accuser (Kroll waves off the business relationship as a mistake). To understand just how big a name Kroll is, consider one description of him: as the "Johnny Appleseed" of licensed private investigators, of which there were 36,200 in the US in 2019. Legions of them studied under Kroll (in 2008 he employed 5,000 people worldwide). "Before the advent of Google, older bankers and finance types" would use his name as a verb, writes Shuster, "as in: make sure to Kroll that guy, find out everything there is to know." But some of what Kroll is most famous for isn't delivering knowledge, but money.

After tracking down the squirreled-away fortunes Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines and Jean-Claude Duvalier of Haiti had taken from their own governments, he in 1991 engaged with Kuwait, who wanted him to uncover where Saddam Hussein had hidden billions. He managed to locate $6 billion. That said, Shuster writes that while those successes helped make his name, his fortune came from more mundane clients, businesses and law firms seeking evidence in legal disputes, or wanting him to "run background checks or scope out takeover targets." And his business has evolved over the years, at various points providing private security in countries like Afghanistan, trying to free kidnapping victims, and assisting victims of cybercrimes. But Kroll is still captivated by the big fish, like his recent hunt for the $250 million Mongolian officials are accused of hiding. (Read the full story, which touches on a job Kroll did for the artist Jeff Koons.)

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