Corruption has been the coveted jewel in everybody’s crown since antiquity. Aristotelian philosophy believed that everybody who had power could become corrupt. Nietzsche said that we commit corruption only because there is financial gain. In the 19th century when those that had the power made politics apparently accessible even to the poor by paying politicians a salary in our democracies where already paving the way for their own wealth accumulation. Paying salaries to politicians for the first time so that the wealthy did not have the monopoly of the control of the function of decision making? Were they kidding us back then into believing that politics was democratic? Of course they were pulling the wool over our eyes into making us believe that everybody, whatever their status, would get to govern the country. What they were really doing was making sure that they were able to siphon of the greenbacks from the state, but this time making it look as if it were all above board. How rueful we may feel when we look back those wily boys and how ‘we the people’ all fell for it.
Corruption is a many splendid thing: the dishonest and illegal behavior of our powerful, void of all principle or moral virtue, inducement to wrong-doing through improper means. The thing our politicians seem to do every day. But, who’s the worst of them all? Who’s done things that are unique and that’s not just talking about the millions or billions that are diverted from public to private accounts in the click of a button or the blink of an eye. Here’re the winners it would seem. It’s up to you to decide who the losers in this big fun game actually might be.
Transparency International looked at who the worst (or the best) at corruption were and here’s who they came up with.
The Most Corrupt
10. Joseph Estrada
In the Philippines this guy was elected both President and Vice-President. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2007 and found guilty of corruption. He said that the court that sentenced him, after being ousted from power in 2001 was nothing more than a “kangaroo court”, with blatant disregard for upholding the law. That’s always the way with corrupt leaders; they are always the first to blow the whistle on someone else, aren’t they? He diverted $78 as well as receiving money from the sale of shares in government pension funds. He had originally risen to power defending the poor and protecting the interests of the neediest in the country. Prior to entering politics he was an actor (sound familiar?) and he always had the role of the tough guy that defended the poor too even on screen. Corrupt deep down or just diverted from the original goal as he got more and more powerful? By the time he was ousted from power the debt of the country had risen to P2.1 trillion ($0.05 trillion) (1999). He had doubled the fiscal debt to P100 billion (2.23 billion) also.
9. Arnoldo Alemán
Alemán was the 81st President of Nicaragua between 1997 and 2002. Information was made available to the public showing that there was widespread corruption in his administration and he was subsequently barred from running from office again. 14 people were charges with corruption under his administration (including his family, who fled the country, and the Chief of the Department of Taxes, Byron Jeréz. Alemán was sentenced in 2003 to 20 years in prison for his corruption at the highest level of the country. He was convicted of money laundering and embezzlement amongst other things. The former President was shown to have used government credit cards for personal use: $13,755 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Bali; $68,506 in India spent on handicrafts and hotels, for example. The average citizen of the country was only making $430 a year at the time. In 2004, Transparency International named him as the 9th most corrupt person in the world stating that he had probably looted roughly $100 million, siphoning it off from state coffers. In 2009, a court overturned the prison sentence and he was set free. Some say there was a secret deal with Daniel Ortega, President of Nicaragua (president since 2007).
8. Pavlo Lazarenko
This former Prime Minister of Ukraine is reported to have stolen $200 million from the state. It was siphoned off from state funds over a period of just twelve months and placed in bank accounts in the Bahamas. He was convicted and sentenced in 2006 for money laundering and extortion as well as wire fraud. He is reported by the United Nations to have extorted 50% of the profits ($60 million) of businessman Peter Kiritchenko. The money was then laundered through a shell company in the USA to conceal property that had been bought. In 2013 the US authorities confiscated a mansion in California worth $6.75 million.
7. Alberto Fujimori
Fujimori was president of Peru from 1990 until 2000. He fled to Japan after the breaking of a major corruption scandal and human rights abuses accusations were revealed. He is perhaps most famous for his Fujimorism policies of anti-terrorism and free-market economics accompanied by right-wing pragmatism and an anti-communist approach. In 2007 he was convicted of search and seizure under illegal circumstances in the country and in 2009 he was convicted of human rights violations (25 years in prison). He killed and kidnapped opponents fighting against the leftist guerillas (1990s). He was the first elected head of state to be extradited (in 2007) back to his own country (from Chile where he was arrested in 2005). He was found guilty of forced sterilization of indigenous women (300,000) under a campaign called Voluntary Surgical Contraception.
6. Jean-Claude Duvalier
The Haitian Baby Doc (1971-1986) succeeded his father Papa Doc, François Duvalier as President of the country when the latter died in 1971. Thousands were killed and tortured and hundreds of thousands decided to flee the country. His wedding was state-sponsored to the tune of $2 million in 1980 and he was found guilty of selling body parts as well as running a drug-trafficking business. He fled to France in 1986, ousted from power and that was on board a US Air Force aircraft. He remained in France until 2011 when he finally returned to Haiti. He was arrested the day after arrival in the country and charged with corruption. He pleaded not guilty and he died of a heart attack in 2014. The world was largely tolerant for some reason to his human-rights abuses and corruption. He is supposed to have amassed somewhere in the region of $300 to $800 million during his time in office, but this is probably just the tip of the iceberg.
5. Slobodan Milosevic
Milosevic was President of Serbia and then subsequently Yugoslavia (1989-1997 and then 1997-2000). His nickname was Sloba. He was arrested in 2001 after resigning as president in 2000 and charged with corruption, abuse of power and embezzlement. He was extradited to the International Criminal Tribunal of the former Yugoslavia and charged with war crimes when there was a lack of evidence regarding his corruption. He defended himself during the trial and refused to recognize its authority because of it not having been mandated by the United Nations General Assembly. He died in his prison cell in 2006, apparently from heart ailments and after having refused to take his medication. He was also charged with having kidnapped and murdered political opponent former President Ivan Stambolic in 2000. He reportedly embezzled $1 billion from the state.
4. Sani Abacha
The Nigerian General was the de facto President of Nicaragua (1993-1998). Under his presidency there were economic records in growth. Foreign-exchange reserves increased from $494 million (1993) to $9.6 billion (1997). External debt of the country fell from $36 billion (1993) to $27 billion (1997). Inflation was stunted from dizzy heights of 54%, ending up at just 8.5% in 1998. But, despite all of the economic prosperity he was accused of human rights abuses (notably, killing by hanging opponent Ken Saro-Wiwa). He reportedly diverted $5 billion from government funds during his term in office? The US revealed in 2014 that it had frozen accounts that had $458 million that it believed to have been illegally obtained by Abacha.
3. Mobutu Sese Seko
Once the president of Zaire. But before getting to the highest ranks of the country he led an army coup in 1960 and got appointed as army chief of staff as a result. In a 2nd coup that took place in 1965 he became prime minister and then as from 1967 became president of the country. He suppressed tribal conflict and made all citizens drop names that were not African in origin. His biggest aim was to amass wealth through economic exploitation and corruption or exploitation in a kleptocratic type of rule of law. Due to his anti-Communist stance the USA maintained his position as dictator supporting him. He is recorded as having embezzled some $5 billion.
2. Ferdinand Marcos
This corrupt political leader stole $10 billion from the Philippines during his reign. He is well-known for having diverted public funds intended for a nuclear power station to buying gifts for his family and friends. The country is still paying it off today. The number of people in the Philippines living below the poverty line doubled between 1965 and 1986 under Marco (going from 18 million to 35 million). The percentage of forest cover in the country was depleted from 75% to just 27% during that same period. Marcos’ wife spent over $2 million on jewelry in just one day on a shopping trip.
1. Mohammed Suharto
This is apparently the most corrupt leader that embezzled the most money from the state. Or, at least, the one that was caught or denounced. He stole some $15 billion from Indonesia. He nationalized state industries and gave them to his friends to benefit from their wealth. He is said to have stolen money from state charities also. The ex-president of Indonesia (1967-1998) was forced to resign in 1998 and there was a government investigation that was carried out. He was placed under house arrest, but as usual in such circumstances his health issues were used as a means to make sure that the court case was dropped. Or perhaps somebody took another back-hander and dropped the accusations.
It’s surprising that Transparency International saw the list of the most corrupt leaders like this. Why didn’t they list anybody from the western world in there or is that a dumb question? Are the leaders of our countries any better than those above? Isn’t a monarch or a leader just a person that descends from or that has acquired the ability to be bloody ruthless in waging a war of arms or words to get to the top? Weren’t these people just the ones that killed literally or metaphorically speaking the opponents that were around them in order to amass greater wealth? Naively, we should ask ourselves why on earth the western leaders are not in there for good measure too.
Politics is a byword today for corruption. How is it that we allow it to happen and to moan at home and yet do nothing to fight against it? If corruption is inevitable where power is concerned, then take the power away from them. Remove their power and reduce their ability to corrupt others to get what they want. These days even the fact that the public might find out wouldn’t stop corruption.
These days corruption happens even before you know it and then we quickly forget. Why not draw up a long list of misdemeanors of our own politicians and make them known? Who would you put on that list and why?
The present salary of a US House and Senate member (rank and file) is $174,000 per year, plus benefits. Leaders of the House and Senate are paid $193,400. Is that enough for them to stop committing fraud and to prevent them from being corrupt?