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'King of Commodities' Marc Rich dead at 78

Marc Rich in 1998
President Bill Clinton's decision to pardon Marc Rich in 2001 sparked a political firestorm. He was wanted by the FBI at the time.Guido Roeoesli / AFP - Getty Images, file

Marc Rich, the founder of Glencore and later fugitive who was controversially pardoned by President Bill Clinton on his last day in office, has died in Switzerland.

Rich began his career with the large trading house, Philipp Brothers (subsequently Phibro) when he was 20. He left in 1974 to set up Marc Rich and Co with Pincus "Pinky" Green, a colleague from Phibro.

Marc Rich and Co eventually became Glencore. The company merged with Xstrata on May 2 this year to become Glencore Xstrata, one of the biggest diversified commodities traders in the world.

(Read More: Glencore Moving Beyond the 'Ghost' of Marc Rich)

In 1983 Rich was indicted by the U.S. government for tax evasion, fraud and illegal business dealings with Iran during the hostage crisis of 1979-1981. Rich fled the U.S. and remained a fugitive until 2001, when President Clinton pardoned him.

He died in a hospital in Lucerne as a result of a brain stroke, a spokesman said in a statement.