Fugitive financier Robert Vesco, who fled the United States to Costa Rica in 1972 to create an illicit international financial paradise here, may have died in Cuba in November, The New York Times reported Saturday – but nobody except for unidentified “people close to him” seems to know about it.
U.S. and Cuban officials told the daily they were unaware of Vesco’s death. However, friends of Vesco – who wouldn’t give their names to avoid trouble with the Cuban authorities – said he died of lung cancer on Nov. 23.
Following the Times article, an Associated Press report emerged saying the newswire viewed a burial record from Havana’s Colón Cemetery showing a man with the same name and birthdate, Dec. 4, 1935, and confirmed both the disease and date of death, adding he was buried the next day, Nov. 24 – just two weeks before his 72nd birthday.
Vesco, who eluded U.S. justice most of his life after looting Investors Overseas Services of $224 million and making an illegal contribution to Richard Nixon’s 1972 presidential campaign, among other crimes, was welcomed by José “Pepe” Figueres, then-president of Costa Rica, to create his imagined “financial district” here to serve as a refuge for international funds.
Figueres shrugged off criticism saying Costa Rica needed investments and shouldn’t question their source. But Ticos repeatedly called for Vesco’s ouster.
In 1974, The Tico Times published an exclusive interview with Vesco, which revealed him as articulate, wily, cocky and wryly humorous (TT, April 26, 1974).
Vesco’s former pilot, Al “Ike” Eisenhauer, who wrote a book about his adventures with the fugitive called “The Flying Carpetbagger,” told The Tico Times, “I love that guy. He’s the perfect bullshit artist – a genius.”
Eventually heading for a new haven in Cuba, the tall, mustached white-collar bandit popped into the news again 10 years ago when he was sentenced to prison in Cuba for a financial scheme.
Some who knew Vesco are skeptical of his death, saying he may have pulled off another wily performance: a vanishing act.