Unethical practices of relatives of leaders

Other Names:
Corruption of wives of political rulers
Corruption of children of government leaders

Although political leaders may themselves be untainted by any accusation of abuse of power, their relatives are well-placed to exploit their obviously privileged access to the leader in advancing their own personal interests or those of their family. Whether with the leader's explicit or tacit approval, or not, such apparent influence can be used to advantage in the negotiation of contracts. Particularly striking cases of corruption relate to the wives and families of political leaders in countries with repressive governments. By amassing enormous wealth and transferring funds abroad, individuals may drain the economy by amassing so much wealth that their corrupt practices create a serious burden. Such individuals are protected from having to account publicly for their finances.


Hard evidence is seldom available concerning undue exploitation of the family's relationship with a government leader. Anecdotal evidence is however usually widely available in the affected countries and can affect many aspects of society. There are a number of instances of countries in which the leader's spouse is known as "Mr. Tenpercent" or "Mrs. Tenpercent" in reference to the commission he or she exacts in obtaining approval for contracts. The question of what constitutes undue influence may vary between societies and depend on particular cases.

[Albania] The widow of the former Albanian dictator was convicted in 1993 for corruption in the closing years of the communist regime.

[Bangladesh] The wife of the former president was jailed with him for corruption.

[China] In the 1990s the relatives, especially the children, of the leadership were believed to be profiteering from their connections, as was traditional in Chinese society.

[Indonesia] The president's family and business associates have substantial stakes in an array of companies with exclusive or quasi-exclusive rights to import, produce or distribute numerous items. The family businesses have been the focus of private concern and occasional protest about questionable practices in Indonesia since the early 1970s.

[Italy] In 1993 the brother of a former prime minister was arrested for his role in diverting hundreds of millions of pounds of aid intended for earthquake victims in 1980.

[Kuwait] In 1993 members of the Kuwaiti parliament accused some members of the ruling royal family for their role in the disappearance of US$500 million during the Gulf War.

[Pakistan] The husband of the prime minister, when first she came to power, was know as "Mr Ten Per Cent" because of his use of a special unit under his personal supervision to clear all big contracts and import-export transactions. It was alleged that in 1994 his influence had further increased.

[Philippines] In 1993 the wife of the former president was convicted for corruption on the first of 90 charges after 7 years; the government accused the president and his wife to have stolen up to US$5 billion from the country during their 20-year rule.

[South Korea] In 1993 the defence minister offered to resign over his brother's implication in a military corruption scandal.

[UK] The son of one prime minister, left the UK in 1984 after it was revealed that he had won a commission in a £300 million contract in Oman following the prime minister's visit there. Allegations by a former Mossad agent about his liaison with a Chilean arms dealer and the South African defence forces were repeated in the House of Commons and considered the subject of possible future inquiry with regard to arms sales to Iraq and to Saudi Arabia in breach of a UN embargo. His former business partner was named as a broker in the aid-for-arms scandal in 1994 surrounding the Pergau dam in Malaysia.

[USA] In 1992 the brother of the president was sued for US$2.5 million in connection with a failed business deal in a company with alleged organized crime connections. The son of the president had earlier agreed to pay a settlement fee for his role in a failed savings and loan association.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Problem Type:
E: Emanations of other problems
Date of last update
17.10.2021 – 09:57 CEST