Alright, for the doubters: yes, the world would be your bitch if actual psychic telepathy was a real thing. Here's a few avenues.
You can't just milk a Swiss bank of its assets without some work - the private banks are set up with multiple levels of security and oversight - but the good news is that both UBS AG and Credit Suisse have plenty of online services. I estimate it would take about five days to get access to the online banking system of a well-heeled individual with a Swiss account. The steps, roughly:
- Locate your mark.
- Identify who manages his finances.
- Fetch authentication information from his mind.
- Get a hold of any physical authentication token in his possession.
- Log in and do a funds transfer.
Step 4 is by far the hardest one, and probably the step you'd want to hire a specialist or team to do for you. Luckily there are plenty of mercenary villains out there who'd want in on this kind of action - and lucky you, you're a telepath, so you can sense which ones are trustworthy and reliable.
Poker and gambling
Good news! If you can read minds, you can win at poker. Get about fifty million dollars in cash together (if necessary by repeating these steps at lower levels) and go to Macau, and visit the Poker King Hall. Buy-in is between 1 and 10 million for the Big Game. You'll be playing against poker veterans and most of these people know each other, so you better have a fantastic poker face and know something about the game before doing this.
You will absolutely get your ass busted if you try this too much yourself. What you need is a series of ringers or confederates, who will actually handle the cards. You'll need to recruit them and offer a sizable percentage - 20% of their personal winnings should be adequate - in return for their cooperation and silence. You'll need to have some of them lose to the others to maintain the facade. It definitely helps to find guys who have talent but no luck, since the doors of the Hall are going to be permanently closed to them after this is over.
This isn't a bad way to make your first billion. At that point you can start looking at investing in small countries.
A telepath would in theory be the second-best type of prince endorsed by Machiavelli - the sort who can't think clearly for themselves, but who can recognize excellence in their subordinates and will listen to wise counsel. With the money you make in any of these other schemes, you should be able to get into the leadership circles of some small country, then work your way up to leadership. This gives you several things:
- International prestige, enough to paper over whatever wrongdoing you engage in next for a short time.
- Personal access to other world leaders, which is probably necessary depending on how your theoretical telepathy actually works.
- A huge channel for laundering money from other illegal pursuits.
- Your own military and security force.
You know those stories about the FBI? How J. Edgar Hoover ran it for decades, and Congress was so afraid of him? He had the dirt on everyone in Washington, and he was using mundane intelligence gathering methods. If you are telepathic, all you need is access to the minds of the Legislature, the Judiciary, and the Executive. Every piece of dirt you can get is a piece of dirt you can use. Once you have that level of leverage, the Statue of Liberty will pull her dress up and bend over for you - you own America.
America's nuclear arsenal is a collection of secrets. The location of the weapons, the access codes for arming them, the steps to building them. All these secrets are held in living minds, and you don't need to be a nuclear physicist to benefit from most of them. The Soviet nuke program was possible thanks to well-placed spies - again, a mundane method of intelligence gathering that any real telepath could easily overcome.
Taken in total
What does the overall picture look like then? A reasonably powerful and competent telepath, with enough nerve to do what I've described, could have their own country, have enough material to keep America and other great powers neutralized (through blackmail, nuclear or otherwise), and enough free cash (with more coming in) to fund just about any sort of project. With your own country, you can hire the nuclear physicists necessary to make sense of the American nuclear secrets. With your own nukes, you're a major player.
Want to know why I still don't believe telepathy is a real thing? Because so far, nobody has done any of this stuff. So either it doesn't exist, or there's some amazingly compelling reason not to use it for high-level villainy. Let me know in the comments what you think, as usual.