Basil Zaharoff

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Basil Zaharoff[1], GCB, GBE[2] (October 6, 1849, Muğla, Ottoman Empire – November 27, 1936, Monte Carlo, Monaco), born Zacharias Basileios Zacharoff, was a Turkish-born arms trader and financier. He became a French citizen in 1908, and worked for the Vickers munitions firm from 1897 to 1927.[3]


Early life

Zacharias Basileios was the only son and eldest of four children of Basilius Zacharoff of Constantinople, born in the Anatolian town of Muğla. The name Zaharoff was adopted when the family was in exile in Russia as a result of the anti-Greek "Easter pogroms" of 1821.[citation needed] The family returned to Turkey in the 1840s. By 1855, the family was back in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), where they lived in the modest Greek neighborhood of Tatavla.

Young Basileios' first job was as a guide for the tourists to the Galata. He then reputedly became an arsonist for the Constantinople firefighters. The 19th century firemen of Constantinople were not so effective at extinguishing fires, but quite effective at rescuing or salvaging the treasures of the rich for a healthy commission.[3]

Legal difficulties

Zaharoff appeared in London in the midst of a controversy that had him in court over irregular commercial actions involving the export of certain goods from Constantinople to London. The Constantinople Greeks in London preferred that matters involving members of their community were not settled by English courts. He was released on the payment of £100 on condition that he pay restitution to the claimant, and remain within the jurisdiction of the court. He immediately went to Athens. Once there the 24-year-old Zaharoff was befriended by a political journalist Etienne Skouloudis. The eloquent Zaharoff succeeded in convincing Skouloudis of the rightness of his case in the London legal conflict.

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