The persecution of billionaires

Billionaires are easy and vulnerable targets for autocratic governments, but also for democratic ones, as we have seen from the unjust persecution of oligarchs by Western governments for the sole crime of being Russian. Even famous Russian athletes and artists have been targeted.

Because of their visibility and influence, if they speak out against established power or express an opinion outside the established pattern of thought, they are at risk of being targeted. When billionaires do business with them and refuse to bend to their will, multinational corporations can also become enemies. Both governments and large multinational corporations will then use all the tools at their disposal – including the courts, the mainstream media and the social media – to try to discredit their good name.

Some believe that billionaires are good for business. Others see them as the cause of global income inequality. But the fact is that many in the business world look to billionaires for their wise instincts and bold words. They have advice to share. Examples include Carlos Slim’s insistence that we must face our problems to overcome them and learn from our mistakes. Or Warren Buffett’s famous argument to think long-term, even if you worry about the posterity of your investments.

Jack Ma © Bloomberg

These are the best of times and the worst of times to be a billionaire. People adore some. They envy and hate the rest. A good example is Elon Musk. He is a hero to many. He is a villain to others. The fact is: He is a visionary with the wealth to innovate in ways that can materially help solve the world’s most intractable problems. But many powerful critics, including the US government and Westerners, followed his purchase of Twitter, now renamed X. After buying, Elon Musk immediately re-instated many who had been censored by the previous owners, including former President Trump. Democratic governments trying to implement the WOKE agenda don’t like any thought that differs from the establishment. The mainstream media has tried, unsuccessfully, to slaughter it.

Elon Musk © AP

In Russia, oligarchs are persecuted by the government unless they submit to the Kremlin’s autocratic power. This was the case with Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Vladimir Gusinsky. In China, billionaires simply disappear. They are executed, murdered or suddenly commit suicide if they do not toe the communist line. This has been the case with Jack Ma, Xiao Jianhua, Ren Ziqiang, Sun Dawu, Bao Fan and Guo Guangchang. To name but a few. This persecution has been politically motivated. In the US, Donald Trump is currently accusing the Biden Administration of persecuting him for political reasons.

Benedict Peters © Post Nigeria

Africa has had its share of billionaire persecutors. The latest is Benedict Peters. He is one of the continent’s most revolutionary entrepreneurs and philanthropists. He is the founder of the country’s largest independent oil producer, Aiteo.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky ©Wikipedia

A global human rights group, the African Centre for Justice and Human Rights (ACJHR), has condemned what it calls a smear campaign against him. Its coordinator, Nduka Edede Chinomso, described the attacks as a malicious international conspiracy to discredit his good name. The statement said: “As a global human rights group, we are concerned about the orchestrated and sponsored attacks against Aiteo founder Benedict Peters. We have noted that the attacks have been constant, a clear indication that this is a calculated attempt to destroy a man created by God. The attacks are nothing more than a malicious international conspiracy to destroy Africa’s revolutionary entrepreneur and philanthropist. This is a man who recently unveiled an initiative that will significantly increase national oil production. Through his oil company, Peters has decided to revive the hitherto dormant Nembe Creek. This is one of many innovative solutions aimed at repositioning the oil sector. We are tempted to believe that those who do not wish the nation well are behind the sustained campaign of calumny against Peters.

The ACJHR frowned at the continued media and fabricated allegations against Mr. Benedict Peters on matters of which the competent courts have clearly cleared him of any wrongdoing, stating that it is perverse and desperate to continue to recycle old baseless allegations just to tarnish the image of a successful businessman and philanthropist. It strongly condemned the attempt by a controversial Ghanaian politician, Okudzeto Ablakwa, who it said was on a mission to destroy the growing momentum of foreign investment in Ghana by attacking the good works of Frontiers Healthcare Services, which greatly helped Ghana survive the worst moments of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ACJHR also warned that as a public interest organisation, it will not hesitate to launch a legal contempt offensive against any person or individual who attempts to tarnish the reputation of Benedict Peters by any of the wild allegations both in the UK, Africa and anywhere in the world where competent courts have acquitted him of any wrongdoing.

Some people believe that billionaires have too much money and that it is harmful, but this is a myth. In fact, during the pandemic, many governments went out of their way to help their people, while several billionaires used their wealth to benefit society and further their charitable aims. It is difficult for ordinary people to have such a large impact on the world, but billionaires have the means to do so. The rise of global philanthropy over the past four decades has been encouraging, and wealthy philanthropists have contributed significantly to improving people’s well-being and public goods on an international scale.

Billionaires are often criticised for their lavish spending, with some claiming that the amount spent on owning a mega-yacht could better serve to feed the less fortunate. However, such claims are pure demagoguery. The fact is that one way in which billionaires stimulate the global economy is through their spending. To all critics, I challenge you to consider the reverse scenario. The exercise is to think of the many companies and individuals who have contributed to the creation of a mega yacht, such as shipbuilders, fabric manufacturers, engineers, interior designers, labourers, and many others.  The same is true when a multi-millionaire hosts an opulent party. Hundreds of people benefit as the money is spent and circulates throughout the system.  A stingy billionaire is useless to everyone. Attempts to solve this with redistribution schemes could end up hurting 99% of the population.

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