Space "will save this planet from dying in our own crap, in our own garbage," Anderson said.
"He's an exceptionally charitable man," said Bob Werb, a real estate developer who has served with Anderson on the Space Frontier Foundation board. "He's part of the American tradition of people who wanted to make money so they could give it away for charitable purposes."
"Like many businessmen, he's fairly vocal about wishing the government would leave him alone and let him do his business," Werb said.
The government alleges that Anderson generated approximately $450 million for his offshore holding companies from 1995 to 1999.
Anderson said the value of the foundation's assets has declined to $30 million to $50 million, while his personal net worth has plunged into negative territory. One of his primary holding companies in the British Virgin Islands, Gold & Appel Transfer, has been forced into liquidation, he said. U.S. District Court in Alexandria has issued a multimillion-dollar judgment against him for allegedly defaulting on a loan from a former business partner.
"We have been attempting to find Anderson's assets since we had the judgment entered, and we have not been successful," said attorney Michael E. Wiles of the firm Debevoise and Plimpton LLP, who represents the former partner.
Friends say Anderson was a man who lived modestly, especially in recent years. He spent many of his lunch hours at Rumors bar and restaurant on 19th Street NW, eating a hamburger and drinking iced tea.
Jeffrey Manber, whom Anderson hired to run the Mir venture, said he remembers being taken aback when Anderson met him in Amsterdam for a business meeting and suggested they go to McDonald's.
Andersen never married or had children but had girlfriends in places such as France, Brazil and Indonesia, according to prosecutors' filings. One woman lives in a 19,000-square-foot mansion in Madrid owned by a company Anderson controls, they said.
In the interview, Anderson said he liked to walk down the street, go in a nice restaurant, "and have nobody know who I am, even though I may be more successful than anyone else in the restaurant in terms of what I've done."
Friends said he openly derided the government's investigation of him and spoke of his belief that it was really a snooping exercise and invasion of his privacy. He learned of the investigation in March 2002, when his home was raided, and has long expected to be indicted.
"I think he felt this was his private affair, these funds and his foundation," Manber said.
"I said to him, 'Why don't you strike a deal? You're spending more on legal fees.' He said, 'It's not their right to know what I do.' "
Staff researchers Madonna Lebling, Alice Crites and Richard Drezen contributed to this report.