Unethical practices of government leaders

Visualization of narrower problems
Corruption of government leaders
Complicity of government ministers in corruption
Corrupt elites
Obstruction of justice by government leaders
Corrupt practices of ruling classes
Irresponsible leaders
Corrupt royalty
Misconduct by aristocracy
Misuse of ruling power
Abuse of authority to rule
Embezzlement by national leaders
Royal scandals
Criminal acts by heads of state
Dangerous rulers
Abuse of influence by leadership
Whether due to an actual increase in governmental corruption, or the increase in an investigative press and judicial system, increasing numbers of government leaders are being implicated for corruption. Some withstand the charges, proving themselves innocent, but others are obliged to leave office, accept lesser posts, or remain in office but with a much weakened credibility.
It is usually difficult to obtain hard evidence of impropriety by government leaders although accusations may be detailed in the media. However a report in the 1990s, allegedly emanating from a Swiss banking source, estimated the amount held on behalf of African leaders as being in excess of US$20 billion. Because of the protection offered by parliamentary immunity these tend not to be pursued and seldom lead to any convictions. It is also characteristic of some forms of political debate, notably in Latin America since the end of the 1980s, for accusations of corruption to be used by the opposition in order to embarass the government, whether or not there is any foundation for such allegations. The following incidents may therefore be considered symptomatic of a much wider pattern of corruption, or perceived corruption, which is especially difficult to document in those countries where there is little freedom of information.

[Argentina] Corruption in government was cited by many in opposing re-election of the president in 1993.

[Australia] Recently reported incidents involved a state prime minister and a high court judge. In 1994 the minister for industry was forced to resign following accusations of misue of public funds and the sports minister also resigned for misuse of £15 million of public funds to buy party votes in marginal seats.

[Bangladesh] A former president was accused of illegal channelling of funds through BCCI and taking bribes of £1 million (in return for plots of government land) and was jailed for corruption in 1993 with 16 others.

[Belgium] In 1994 leaders of the Social Party were forced to resign because of involvement in a scandal concerning a defence contract to the benefit of party funds.

[Brazil] In 1992 a major campaign was launched to impeach the president on charges of corruption following a complete collapse in his credibility. He had been accused of regularly receiving bribes from a businessman also under investigation for corruption. He was also accused of favouring certain companies in competition for government contracts. He was forced out of office as a result. In 1993, the fourth economics minister in five months was forced to resign because of irregularities in allocating public works contracts.

[Canada] In 1991 a major scandal emerged involving a system of kickbacks and bid-rigging covering nearly all government contracts; those charged included a minister of sport, three former ministers, the speaker of the senate, and three former ministerial aides.

[China] Corrupt government elites were reportedly benefiting personally from the development boom in the 1990s, notably in relation to the weapons trade. A vice-minister was arrested with 20 others in connection with a multi-million dollar bond fraud.

[France] In 1993 contained the largest number of indicted government ministers in Europe. In that year a former prime minister committed suicide following revelations concerning an US$180,000 interest-free loan from a businessman of questionable reputation. A leading contender for the presidency was reported in 1993 to have had several vacations that were lavish in comparison with his official salary. A former president, and leader of a conservative party, has been linked to a bribery scandal involving a financier who died in prison awaiting trial. An upcoming leader had been accused of using his office as a mayor to improve his personal residence. In 1993 the speaker of the National Assembly was charged with raising illegal campaign funds when acting as treasurer of the Socialist Party. The minister of urban affairs was only allowed to rejoin the cabinet after a judge withdrew charges of fraud following an out-of-court settlement.

[Germany] In 1993 there were 22 parliamentary investigations into various scandals either at the national or state level. The German vice-chancellor and economics minister resigned after admitting use of his office to promote a relative's products. In the same year the interior minister resigned after presenting a series of contradictory explanations concerning incidents between security forces and suspected terrorists. The minister of transport in 1993 resigned after acknowledging use of public funds to move his family to a new house; this followed a series of other questionable incidents, notably assisting companies to obtain franchises. He was the eighth minister to leave Germany's 20-member cabinet in the previous 13 months. Most involved peddling of influence or the abuse of power in exchange for relatively small amounts of money.

[Greece] In 1991 there were allegations against a former prime minister for receipt of bribes. < [Guatemala] The courts and legislature were closed by the president in 1993 in order to purge the state of all forms of corruption.

[Haiti] A former ruler of Haiti is estimated to have diverted US$120 million into foreign accounts for his personal benefit.

[India] Top aides of the prime minister were accused in 1991 of having received illegal payments in connection with the BCCI scandal; opposition groups claimed that the prime minister had helped to bail out BCCI-India. A prime minister was alleged by a businessman to have personally received a £200,000 bribe as a contribution to political campaign funds and narrowly survived the resulting vote of no confidence in 1993. The finance minister resigned in 1993 after being accused of constructive responsibility in a £860 financial scandal. Two ministers of oil were accused of financial irregularities.

[Ireland] In 1991 the prime minister lost all support following a series of scandals involving insider trading, conflict of interest and tax evasion on the part of a number of his close business friends. Some allegedly benefited from cronyism is winning contracts.

[Israel] In 1993 the supreme court ordered the prime minister to dismiss the interior minister and the deputy religious affairs minister following investigation of charges of corruption.

[Italy] In 1993 the leaders of most political parties were in some way implicated in corruption scandals; the situation was exacerbated by efforts to find a "political solution" through which those accused would be offered some form of amnesty. Of the former prime ministers, five were accused of corruption or receipt of bribes on behalf of their political parties; even when denied it was alleged that they effectively controlled a nationwide system in which large sums were extracted from businessmen for party and personal profit in return for public sector contracts. In 1994 a former prime minister and justice minister were indicted for fraudulent bankruptcy, the former admitting to receipt of £75 million in gifts for his political party. Another former prime minister, and great statesman, was also formally accused in 1994 of being associated with organized crime whose interests in the drug trade he had defended; he was closely linked with the founder of the P2 Masonic Lodge and named as the master-mind of the Banco Ambrosiano scandal.

[Japan] In 1992 a prime minister and a minister admitted receipt of bribes in 1989. Another former prime minister was implicated in 1992 in a scandal linking politicians with organized crime in 1990. In 1992 it was alleged that gifts of up to 7 million yen were common when a protégé reached cabinet level. Major corruption scandals at the highest level completely disrupted the political system in 1993 and 1994. In 1994 the prime minister resigned after being the target of allegations of implication in suspect financial dealings in the 1980s.

[Kenya] A leading cabinet minister fired in the 1991 was widely recognized to have accumulated very large sums in foreign accounts from commissions of up to 15% on public works and other contracts, notably in his role as minister of energy; the list of accusations against him was alleged to be as long as the list of companies he was said to own. He was known as a protegé of the president. In the same year two of the country's top political personalities were directly accused of the murder of the foreign minister. In 1993 the chairman of the main opposition party admitted receiving a £17,000 contribution to campaign funds from a compnay implicated in a major scandal.

[Kuwait] The alleged corruption of the Al Sabah ruling family was used as an excuse by Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait.

[Nepal] In the 1992 the ministers of a newly elected democratic government were implicated in corruption scandals confonding hopes of a democratic alternative to the previous regime.

[Nigeria] In 1993 it was reported that the military ruler personally controlled five dedicated Swiss accounts into which 40% of Nigeria's oil revenue was diverted (90% of Nigeria's revenue was from oil); no oil could be sold without his personal approval and all disbusement from the dedicated accounts was under his control. There was no government treasury or budget and he and his wife were alleged to spend government money as if it were their own.

[Pakistan] The prime minister was dismissed in 1993 for corruption, nepotism, and misuse of public funds; the previous prime minister had also been accused of corruption.

[Papua New Guinea] The governor-general resigned after refusing to fire the deputy prime minister who had been found guilty on 81 charges of corruption and then resigned.

[Peru] The chamber of deputies in 1991 voted to lift the parliamentary immunity of a former president as the first step towards trying him on charges that he illegally enriched himself in office and for his links with BCCI. Corruption was given as the reason by the new president when he seized power in 1992.

[Philippines] The corruption of former president Marcos was widely reported in the media as having contributed to the plundering of the economy (of amounts up to US$5 billion) until ousted from power in 1986; it was estimated that more than US$350 million had been diverted to foreign bank accounts.

[Russia] In 1993 the prosecutor general accused the defence minister of illegal deals involving military property, in which military commanders and the defence ministry were implicated. In 1993 the president ordered the suspension of the vice president and the deputy prime minister for alleged involvement in a highly policized corruption scandal. Allegations were also made against a former prime minister and other ministers. The chief state inspector appointed in 1992 was allegedly made redundant in 1993 for investigating colleagues of the president.

[Slovakia] In 1994 the president of the newly independent country gave details of the bribery and blackmail practised by the prime minister on fellow politicians.

[South Korea] In 1993 the president implicity accused his predecessor through his failure to act in response to the high level of corruption in the public service.

[Sri Lanka] Efforts were made to impeach the president following accusations of misdemeanours, including corruption, usurping the powers of parliament and creation of police state.

[Trinidad] In 1990 an official inquiry had named five former cabinet ministers, 52 senior policemen, and 3 judges as being deeply involved in drug trafficking.

[Ukraine] In 1992 the former prime minister was to be interviewed by state proescutors in connection with the unexplained transfer of US$3 million to a bank in the USA.

[UK] In 1993 it was reported that a foreign businessman, after making generous contributions to the Conservative Party, had two ministers and the attorney general intervene on his behalf when facing charges of fraud involving £30 million.

[USA] In 1994 the president was faced with a Watergate style investigation of the Whitewater affair (involving financial entanglements in Arkansas prior to his election) and especially of the subsequent effort apparently to obstruct any such investigation, notably through the destruction of evidence. Observers remarked on the similarity to the Watergate incident, involving an earlier president, where it was the effort at cover-up which finally proved of greater political significance. Concern was expressed at the "sleaze factor" associated with presidential appointees.

[Venezuela] In 1993 the head of the supreme court indicated that he had obtained sufficient evidence to try the president for embezzlement of state funds with two former ministers in connection with the purchase in 1989 of US$17 million at a preferential rate of exchange, subsequently sold at a profit of US$10 million.

[Zaire] The president had by 1992 long been widely perceived as being unwilling to distinguish between the public treasury as a private account.

[Zimbabwe] In 1993 the corruption of government ministers and officials was widely reported, even in the Zimbabwe press.

Incidents have also been reported in the following countries: Mexico, Panama, Tanzania, Haiti, Syria, Iraq, Bolivia, Colombia, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Thailand, Paraguay. Especially in Latin American countries corruption of government leaders is connected to drugs. The financial fraud and corruption of party leaders in Eastern European countries prior to the break up of the USSR was publicized in the 1990s.

How fortunate for leaders, that the masses do not think. (Adolf Hitler).
The distinction between excess use of power and any abuse of that power may be a matter of judgement concerning styles of governance. With the information available it is difficult to distinguish between unnecessary use of power and deliberate actions of a questionable ethic standard, especially when ethical standards and traditions vary between cultures. It is also difficult to determine any borderline between unethical actions with relatively benign consequences and those with severe consequences for others and which are therefore best termed corrupt.
(C) Cross-sectoral problems