Corruption is a global epidemic that comes in various forms. From falsified elections to nepotism, leaders have increasingly used their positions for personal gain while neglecting the needs of their constituents.
Not all politicians act in the best interests of their countries; often their ambition and greed lead them astray, leading to corruption such as rigged elections or cronyism in many nations around the globe.
Corrupt politicians have always been part of society since its dawn; this trend has only increased in modern times. Politicians who engage in corruption typically engage in embezzlement, money laundering, and extortion; while those committing smaller-scale theft might get away with it more easily, hiding millions is much harder.
Moreover, corruption isn't solely about money; it can also be about power and influence. Rigged elections, bribery, voter fraud, cronyism, and nepotism all play a part in creating unjust societies or dictators with unrestricted power.
Transparency International keeps tabs on corrupt politicians and ranks them by the amounts embezzled. Nawaz Sharif tops this year's list, followed by Vladimir Putin, Salman bin Abdulaziz, and Asif Ali Zardari.
The 2022 Corruption Perception Index ranks 180 countries based on perceived levels of corruption within political and business leadership. Of particular note are former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Asif Ali Zardari from the Asif Ali Zardari Party of Pakistan, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as some of those considered most corrupt leaders.
This list features the top 10 corrupt politicians in the world. This includes notable presidents and prime ministers who held office for ulterior motives. Each one used their position for personal gain despite legal obligations to use it legitimately.
1. Mobutu Seka
Mobutu Sese Seko, more popularly known by his moniker Kuku Ngbendu Wa Zaire Wa Banga ("the rooster that watches over all the hens") rose from being a colonial police informer and journalist to become a military dictator and eventually President of Zaire (now Congo). His regime became one of the most corrupt in history; some estimates place its total embezzlement amounting to $38 billion.
Mobutu's regime was marked by widespread corruption and nepotism. Nationalizing foreign-owned firms allowed his family members and friends to seize assets belonging to these firms; deporting European managers in favor of African ones before raiding them later for profit - or worse.
Mobutu's regime fell in 1997, but not before he amassed immense wealth for himself and died in exile in Morocco. Without the support of Western governments and the CIA, his regime never would have survived; Mobutu painted himself as a protector against Communist infiltration in Africa while tapping into vast mineral riches within his nation's borders.
Heavily suspected of embezzling an estimated $12 Billion, this man has become not just an unscrupulous politician but one of the world's most corrupt governments under his leadership.
Mobutu took power in a 1965 coup that ousted Patrice Lumumba, an elected left-wing leader. Mobutu quickly set about creating one of Africa's archetypical one-party states by tolerating no dissent and creating an inflexible personality cult around himself - symbolized by leopard-skin caps and walking sticks with eagle heads as his chosen symbols.
He used his immense wealth to fund an extravagant lifestyle characterized by nepotism, corruption, and Concorde shopping sprees - tales of which can still be heard today. He remained in power until 1997 when health issues and declining popularity brought down his vast empire; eventually dying the same year and leaving behind several semiautonomous regions where Laurent Kabila ruled as a weak and ineffective leader.
2. Slobodan Miloevic
During his presidency, he amassed between $5- 10 Billion worth of wealth and property. Furthermore, he used his office to steal from other people while being very cunning in his schemes.
Milosevic represented the shadow side of European endeavor and disabused the hope generated by the Eastern European and Balkan revolutions in 1989. Understanding propaganda's power, Milosevic quickly took control of Belgrade TV station as well as an influential newspaper from which to spread his lies.
He was a man of many contradictions and could effectively appeal to nationalism to garner popular support for his regime. With great political talent, he inspired immense loyalty among his followers. Being of Asian origin gave him greater precision and discipline in his scams - yet still, dangerousness when acting against others. He remains a threat today.
Milosevic was one of the most corrupt politicians ever to hold office and was always seeking power through any means necessary. A skilled communist apparatchik, Milosevic was always searching for ways to use and abuse his authority.
Milosevic quickly won the support of LCS rank-and-file members through his populist style, ousting Stambolic from power and seizing control of his party. He sought for federal government control to be restored over Vojvodina and Kosovo provinces; further fomented ethnic Serb rebellions across Croatia and Bosnia; and fostered ethnic Serb rebellions across Croatia and Bosnia.
By May 1999, International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia at The Hague charged Milosevic and others with war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the Kosovo conflict.
3. Alberto Fujimori
Alberto Fujimori used his power as President of Peru to abuse it, employing death squad soldiers he ordered them to hire to kidnap and kill citizens he disapproved of.
Alberto Fujimori embezzled more than $1 billion during his presidency of Peru, seizing power through a coup and running it like a dictator, employing death squads against political rivals.
Moreover, he also misused his authority by ordering illegal searches of private residences and forcibly detaining citizens. Eventually, he was ousted from power during a bloody civil war and exiled following a corruption trial.
Fujimori stands out among this list due to the evidence supporting his corruption: He was an oppressive dictator who tortured many Haitians during his 15-year rule and is reported to have embezzled approximately $300 million during that period - as evidenced by his lavish wedding that cost $2 million!
4. Nawaz Sharif
Nawaz Sharif was a Pakistani politician and three-term Prime Minister from 1999 to 2007. Allegedly involved in corrupt practices, Nawaz was disqualified in 2017 following the Panama Papers leak which revealed evidence that both he and his family had invested offshore resources.
Corruption refers to any fraudulent use of public funds or authority for private gain without legitimate authority, often occurring when politicians use their position for personal gain.
As per a report by Transparency International (TI), former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ranks fourth as the world's most corrupt politician with his estimated corruption reaching upwards of $30 billion.
5. Asif Ali Zardari
Politics around the globe is littered with corrupt politicians. They steal cash from their constituents to enrich themselves personally, more so than other types of thieves due to how this money leaves the country via offshore accounts and causes massive economic loss for itself. This leads to enormous loss for its country as a whole and weakens it considerably.
Asif Ali Zardari is a former Prime Minister of Pakistan. Married to Benazir Bhutto and one of Pakistan's richest individuals. With real estate properties, steel plants, factories, and more across both Pakistan and overseas he holds one of the highest positions possible in government until being disqualified due to corruption charges by Supreme Court; considered one of the most corrupt leaders ever seen in modern Pakistani politics history.
Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan ranks as one of the 10 most corrupt politicians worldwide. He ranks fifth on our list due to allegations of corruption against him. His career has been marred by personal scandals, political infighting, economic struggles, and economic woes.
Zardari served as an important ally in America's war on terror against militant groups in his nation while leading a coalition against them; yet has come under severe criticism due to flood disasters in 2010 and terrorist violence within his own borders.
6. Vladimir Putin
President Vladimir Putin, born in 1952, has served his nation since 2013. A former KGB agent, he has used his political position to amass wealth by purchasing luxury apartments, yachts, and cars - as well as exerting influence worldwide through international politics.
Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer and current President of Russia. During his 15-year stint with the secret police (six of which were spent stationed in Dresden East Germany), Vladimir served for 15 years. When he returned home in 1990, Vladimir was appointed prorector at Leningrad State University before later serving as first deputy mayor.
7. Narendra Modi
Politicians should serve their nation, yet some use their power for unjust gains - known as political corruption - which includes acts such as bribery, vote fraud, cronyism, and murder. Such forms of misconduct erode trust between citizens and politicians alike while slowing economic development within nations.
Even though he claims he has cracked down on corruption, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi remains one of the world's most corrupt politicians. He stands accused of accepting funds from industrial conglomerates to fund election campaigns and of illegally purchasing land in the Himalayas - both corruption scandals placed him seventh on this list of the ten most corrupt politicians globally in 2023. It is thought his alleged corruption has cost billions for India alone making him rank seventh on this list of the 10 most corrupt politicians worldwide.
These politicians steal cash and assets from their nations by placing them in offshore accounts, creating widespread corruption that destroys lives and alters lives forever. Their actions need to be brought to light before further harm occurs in our world, so punishment by law should be swift.
8. Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan
Khalifa bin Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, President of UAE ranks eighth on our list of most corrupt politicians after amassing an estimated $150 billion in assets through misappropriating Treasury funds. Petro Oleksiyovych Poroshenko is also in our top ten; his anti-corruption institutions have become toothless under him and his economic ruinous policies have crippled Ukraine's economy.
These political thieves fill their pockets and create offshore accounts with people's money that doesn't belong to them, filling their own pockets while siphoning off that which doesn't belong to them. Their corrupt acts impact all nations worldwide and it is essential that we expose these men for their evil practices in order to end them. Names such as Nawaz Sharif, Vladimir Putin, Asif Ali Zardari, and Narendra Modi who are notoriously known for engaging in corrupt dealings can be found in the Panama Papers leak. All four politicians' names appear among some of the world's most corrupt politicians; all four politicians' names have been revealed in this leak!
9. Joseph Estrada
Joseph Estrada, better known by his nickname 'Erap, was President of the Philippines from 1998 to 2001. A former movie actor and college dropout, Erap earned his moniker due to his stocky physique, greasy Elvis Presley pompadour hairstyle, thin mustache, and famous womanizing, drinking, and gambling habits.
Estrada was accused of engaging in numerous illicit deals, such as accepting millions in payoffs from gambling syndicates, taking a cut of ransom money paid to release hostages, and laundering drug proceeds through U.S, Canadian, and Hong Kong banks with the help of his business partner.
One common thread among all corrupt politicians is their tendency to steal more money than their predecessors. It is truly astounding and shocking how some individuals will do anything necessary for power - including breaking laws - simply so they can leave their mark on history for all the wrong reasons.
10. Pavlo Lazarenko
Corrupt politicians everywhere cannot resist their desire to grab some dirty cash. It seems as if these politicians have an unhealthy competition against one another to see who can steal more funds; it is both remarkable and absurd that people would go so far just to secure themselves a place in history for all the wrong reasons.
Pavlo Lazarenko bottoms our list of the world's 10 most corrupt politicians, having stolen an estimated value of $200 million while serving as Prime Minister in Ukraine. Later, he was arrested and jailed in the United States for fraud and money laundering charges. Lazarenko belongs to a new generation of kleptocrats that use global financial systems more sophisticatedly to achieve their nefarious ends - it doesn't take much convincing talent and powerful connections in high places to become corrupt politicians!