May 4, 2006

Castro worth $900 million: Forbes

By Michele Gershberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Cuban President Fidel Castro was
furious when Forbes magazine estimated his fortune at $550
million last year. This year, the magazine upped its estimate
of the communist leader's wealth to a cool $900 million.

Castro, who says his net worth is nil, is likely the
beneficiary of up to $900 million, based on his control of
state-owned companies, the U.S. financial magazine said in its
annual tally of "Kings, Queens & Dictators" fortunes on

Kings and sheikhs of the oil-rich Gulf Arab states still
top the Forbes list, to be published in its May 22 edition.

Saudi King Abdullah is number one with an estimated $21
billion, followed by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei at $20
billion and United Arab Emirates' President Sheikh Khalifa bin
Zayed al-Nahayan at $19 billion.

Among Europeans, Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein
improved upon his family fortune of palaces, real estate and
artwork with an investment in a U.S. producer of hybrid rice,
for total estimated riches of $4 billion.

Perhaps the most industrious of the leaders listed is
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, with a
net worth of $14 billion.

Forbes estimates the renowned racehorse breeder also helped
raise Dubai's gross domestic product from about $8 billion to
nearly $40 billion since 1994 by diversifying its industries
outside of oil and making successful investments overseas.

"He would probably be the shrewdest of the bunch," said
Luisa Kroll, associate editor at Forbes.

Africa's Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, president of
Equatorial Guinea, made the list of wealthiest leaders for the
first time. He is estimated to hold up to $600 million, the
magazine said, although an oil boom has not prevented his
country's slide down the United Nations' development rankings.

Castro had said he was considering suing after Forbes
released its 2005 list, scoffing then his wealth was estimated
to be close to that of the queen of England.

"Do they think I am (former Zairian President) Mobutu (Sese
Seko) or one of the many millionaires, those thieves and
plunderers that the empire has suckled and protected?" he said
last year, referring to his capitalist archenemy, Washington.

This year, Castro would be well above the British monarch.
Queen Elizabeth came in with some $500 million in estates, gems
and a stamp collection built by her grandfather. The list does
not include Buckingham Palace or the crown jewels.

A copy of the list, compiled by Forbes editors and not
confirmed by the royals themselves, was released on Thursday.

"People are always intrigued. What is the ultimate fantasy
but being a rich princess or prince?" said Kroll, who edits the
magazine's annual list of global billionaires.

"We keep it separate from the billionaires because there
are some very tricky things about these folks," Kroll said.
"It's very hard to separate state from personal wealth. Some of
these fortunes literally go back 800 years."