10 of the Most Fiscally Corrupt Politicians in History

Mohamed Suharto

In politics, the word ‘corrupt’ generally refers to outside factors persuading a leader’s decision-making process. These outside factors often come in the form of bribes. When a police officer lets you out of a ticket for $100, that’s corruption. When a teacher boost the score on your final exam for $500, that is also corruption.

You can see the pattern here. Bribes generally consist of large amounts of money – because everyone has a price. The ten most corrupt politicians below were ranked on a scale simply consisting of how much money they embezzled, or how high their price was.

10. Joseph Estrada


Joseph Estrada – president of the Philippines in the late 90s and early 00s – took his rise to fame as an actor in films, something not uncommon for politicians around the globe. Estrada waged war on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2000, emerging quite victorious. The problems for Joseph Estrada came in 2001 when his friend came out with confessions stating he had given the Phillipino president a large sum of ill-earned money. After the allegations, Joseph Estrada was impeached by the senate, thus ending his presidency.

All’s well that ends well, right? Not so much. As of 2013, Joseph Estrada is currently the Mayor of Manila, the country’s capital.

Sources: IMDB

9. Arnoldo Alemán

Former Nicaraguan President Arnoldo Aleman (1997-2002) talks to the foreign press in Managua on January 22, 2009. Aleman was acquitted of all charges against him of money laundering and embezzlement and cut short his 20 year prison sentence after serving seven years of house arrest. AFP/Miguel ALVAREZ (Photo credit should read MIGUEL ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Everyone’s favorite Nicaraguan president. Arnoldo Alemán started his political career off as a councilor in the city of Managua, the city which he later became the mayor of. Arnoldo Alemán was barred from ever running for another term on a constitutional level after allegations emerged of corruption within his administration, corruption which he made sure to cover up. He and his wife allegedly spent over $1 million on personal items, and $100 million was said to be diverted into Alemán’s election campaign. It wasn’t until roughly a year later that he was officially charged with corruption, embezzlement and money laundering among other things.

Source: BBC

8. Pavlo Lazarenko

Pavlo Lazarenko

Add extortion, money laundering and wire fraud to this former-Ukraine prime minister’s portfolio. To end a short, one year term, Pavlo Lazarenko was apprehended by authorities in December of 1998 on allegations of money laundering, but was later released on bail. In 2000, Pavlo Lazarenko was charged with the killing of high-ranking politician Yevhen Shcherban as well as two assassination attempts on other officials. In 2006, he was imprisoned for nine years in the U.S.A. on charges of fraud, money laundering and corruption. The United Nations claimLazarenko was responsible for the embezzlement of roughly $200 million over a one-year period.

Source: BBC

7. Alberto Fujimori

Former Peruvian President (1990-2000) Alberto Fujimori arrives to his trial in Lima on April 7, 2009. Fujimori, 70, was declared guilty on April 7, 2009 by a special court in Lima on charges of murder by an army death squad and kidnapping during his reign in the 1990s. AFP PHOTO/Justice Palace - Francisco MEDINA --- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE PERU-JUSTICE-TRIAL-FUJIMORI-VEREDICT

With a ten-year term under his belt, Alberto Fujimori has served much longer than most politicians with such a troubling history. In light of a corruption scandal, Alberto Fujimori’s Peruvian presidency screeched to a halt as he fled for Japan, running away from charges against him. Upon landing in Japan, he tried to resign as president, though his resignation was rejected by congress, who preferred to impeach him instead. In 2009, Alberto Fujimori was ultimately imprisoned for 25 years on account of humans rights violations.


6. Jean-Claude Duvalier

Jean-Claude Duvalier

Jean-Claude Duvalier was president of Haiti for a whopping 15 years. Duvalier had a ‘publicly funded’ $2 million wedding, if that gives you a feel for his appreciation of his country’s money. He was a gruesome dictator, under whom many Haitians endured execution and torture. Unlike many of the leaders on this list, Duvalier died a free man. Although he was arrested by Haiti police after fleeing (and then coming back to) the country, he had died of a heart attack before the courts had finished with him. It is said he embezzled anywhere between $300 million to $800 million during his reign of terror.

Sources:  CBC, Telegraph, Amnesty

5. Slobodan Milošević

Slobodan Milošević

Slobodan Milošević embezzled $1 billion during his presidency in Serbia. After bringing the Socialist Party of Serbia to power, Slobodan Milošević lasted in office for 9 years before losing his presidency after an election he called early out of his own free will. He then went on to be the president of Yugoslavia for three years. One year later, he was put on trial under allegations of war crimes. Although he claimed the trial was, according to the UN Charter, illegal, he was held on trial until his death in 2006. He also faced charges for the embezzlement of a whopping $1 billion dollars, making him the fifth most corrupted leader of all time. Much like Duvalier, Slobodan Milošević died of a heart attack during his trials.


4. Sani Abacha


Originally a general within the Nigerian army, Sani Abacha later became the head of state in Nigeria for quite some time. His was the first presidency to see massive-scale economy growth throughout recent history in Nigeria. He was a bit of a double-edged sword; however, due to his controversial reign involving myriad human rights issues. But we’re all here for the money, so let’s get down to it. While the exact figure is unknown, it’s been estimated that Abacha and several of his associates embezzled between $2 billion and $5 billion.


3. Mobutu Sese Seko

Mobutu Sese Seko pictured in Kinshasa a month before he was overthrown in 1997

The infamous dictator of the Republic of the Congo. Mobutu Sese Seko was known for many things – human rights violations, authoritariansm and cultural purging, to name a few – one thing not as many people are aware of was the corruption rampant throughout his government’s rule. It is believed he embezzled a large amount of money, roughly $5 billion, during his reign of terror (although the exact figure has been debated).


2. Ferdinand Marcos

Ferdinand Marcos

Ferdinand Marcos was a Filipino president for an entire 21 years. During his presidency, Marcos embezzled $5 to $10 billion and was acquitted in the U.S.A. on embezzlement charges while simultaneously facing hundreds of charges of corruption in his home country. As if that wasn’t enough, he was a fairly gruesome leader as well.


1. Mohamed Suharto


This is it, the most corrupted leader in all of history. After playing a part in World War Two as a solder for the army of the Netherlands, Mohamed Suharto later went on to become the second president of Indonesia – a title which he held for 31 years straight. Unlike most in his circumstance, Suharto was not impeached; he resigned after he 31 years of presidency, although his resignation was said to have little to do with his own free will, due to the country’s then-discontent toward his leadership. During his presidency he and his family managed to steal up to $35 billion, earning Suharto the title of the world’s most corrupted leader.



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