Edmond J. Safra (ادموند يعقوب صفرا; August 6, 1932 – December 3, 1999) was born in Lebanon. He continued the family tradition of banking in Lebanon, Brazil and Switzerland. He married Lily Watkins. He died in a fire that attracted wide media interest and was judicially determined to be due to arson.
The Safra family is a Jewish Lebanese family from Beirut. Edmond's father, Jacob Safra, had opened the J.E. Safra Bank in 1920. By the time he was sixteen, Edmond Safra was working at his father's bank and was engaged in the precious metals and foreign exchange aspects of the business.
In 1949, the family moved to Italy, where he worked for a trading company in Milan. The family moved again in 1952, this time to Brazil, where Edmond Safra and his father founded their first Brazilian financial institution in 1955.
In 1956, Edmond Safra settled in Geneva to set up a private bank, the Trade Development Bank, which grew from an original $1 million to $5 billion during the 1980s. He extended his financial empire to satisfy his wealthy clients from around the world. He also founded the Republic National Bank of New York in 1966, and, later, Republic National Bank of New York (Suisse) in Geneva. Republic bank operated 80 branches in the New York area, making it the number three branch network in the metropolitan region behind Citigroup and Chase Manhattan. In 1988, he also founded Safra Republic Holdings S.A., a bank holding company.
The sale of Trade Development Bank to American Express for more than $450 million in 1983, turned into a legal battle between the two parties. The financier came out on top, winning a public apology from American Express for starting a smear campaign against him and $8 million in damages, all of which he donated to charities.
By the early 1990s, Safra's fortune was an estimated at $2.5 billion. He was a major phlanthropist during his lifetime, and he left his wealth to the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation which supports hundreds of projects in fifty countries around the world in the areas of education, science and medicine, religion, culture and humanitarian assistance.
As he approached his 60s, the financier divided his time between his homes in Monaco, Geneva, and New York and the Villa Leopolda on the French Riviera. Weakened by Parkinson's disease, he required nursing care.
Death Of Edmond Safra
In December 1999, Safra and nurse Vivian Torrente were suffocated by fumes in a fire deliberately lit at the billionaire's Monaco home.Another nurse, American Ted Maher, who was sharing the night shift with Torrente at the time, was arrested under suspicion of starting the fire, and was convicted of the crime in 2002 by the Monaco Court. He claims that he was attacked by two masked men and, unable to figure out how to trigger the Safra's complex security system, started the fire in an attempt to trigger the system. The prosecution argued he was attempting to carry out a daring rescue, and thus increase his standing in the Safra family's eyes, but lost control of the fire unintentionally
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