CHRISTO Wiese comes fourth. But that's hardly a disgrace. The Shoprite and Pepkor chairman has joined Nicky Oppenheimer, Johann Rupert and Patrice Motsepe on Forbes magazine's global list of billionaires.

With an estimated wealth of $1,6bn, Mr Wiese, who last week took a 33% stake in listed private equity company Brait, ranks 782nd on Forbes's list of the world's 1210 billionaires, published on Wednesday.

This puts him below list veterans Mr Oppenheimer & family (136th with a reported $7bn fortune), Mr Rupert & family (219th with $4,8bn) and Mr Motsepe (336th with $3,3bn).

"I don't know if it's something to be congratulated on or commiserated on," he said yesterday.

The South Africans on the list are poor cousins to the global rich. Mexican telecoms mogul Carlos Slim Helu has an estimated fortune of $74bn and is the richest man in the world.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates is second with 56bn, Berkshire Hathaway head Warren Buffett third with 50bn and luxury goods company LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault fourth with $41bn.

Mr Wiese declined to comment on the accuracy of the estimate. "A lot of my holdings are private. My largest private holding would be Pepkor, which is now very public," he said.

Brait will buy a 24,6% stake in Pepkor for R4,18bn, valuing the company at about R17bn.

Mr Wiese was stopped carrying £674920 at London's City airport in April 2009 - well above the £1000 threshold for declaring cash carried out of the UK - and the money was seized . The confiscation was confirmed in December by a magistrate's court, which found the money "was associated with criminality".

Mr Wiese says he was carrying the cash to deposit in a bank in Luxembourg. He has appealed against the ruling.

Even if he gets the money back, his ranking will not change. He shares 782nd spot with 50 others, and the next rank is of people worth $1,7bn. "I'm afraid it won't make the sort of difference that can be noticed," Mr Wiese said.

blebym@bdfm.co.za