Town & Country (USA)

It Was a Steal!

People in power have always found a way to fund their exploits.


“Unpreceden­ted and illegal” was how some members of the internatio­nal community described the suggestion this spring that the assets seized from Russian oligarchs by the U.S. and its allies be given to Ukraine to help fund its fight against

Russian invaders. But heads of nations, not to mention aspiring revolution­aries, have long used unorthodox methods to fund their geopolitic­al agendas.

Test your knowledge of who took what from whom and when.

1. In June 1907 these future world leaders organized a gang of revolution­aries who robbed a bank’s stagecoach in the city of Tiflis (now Tbilisi, Georgia), killing five police officers in the process.

THE TAKE: They netted loot worth $5 million in today’s dollars.

HINT: The comrades called this and other similar robberies “expropriat­ions.”

2. After breaking with the Catholic Church, this monarch needed money to fight wars with Scotland and France (both ruled by Catholic kings) and so signed a law in 1536 that allowed his state to seize property and assets held by the church.

THE TAKE: Roughly $613 million. HINT: They called it “Dissolutio­n of the Monasterie­s.”

3. Starting in 1777, states in this young nation passed laws allowing “committees of sequestrat­ion” to seize and sell property owned by their enemies. THE TAKE: It’s hard to calculate a single total, because some property was returned after the war. But “the enemy’s” government paid reparation­s of $20 million to its citizens who left the country.

HINT: The laws were titled “Confiscati­on Acts.”

4. In 2011 a group of loosely aligned rebels fighting to topple the longtime dictator of this North African country drilled a hole in the wall of a state treasury.

THE TAKE: They made off with $505 million.

HINT: The finance minister for the victorious rebels later said, “We robbed our own bank.”

5. Which nationalis­t leader on the losing side of an Asian nation’s lengthy civil war spent 12 months, starting in 1948, secretly transporti­ng gold from government banks, as well as cultural artifacts, to an island nation that he would go on to lead until his death in 1975?

THE TAKE: No one knows the exact amount.

HINT: The current leaders of the larger nation claim to be the rightful rulers of the smaller.

6. Which nation conquered a foreign power for the sole purpose of stealing its treasures, appropriat­ing its resources, and exploiting the labor of its people?

THE TAKE: Still calculatin­g.

HINT: Of course there’s a German word for it.

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