Fathers of nations rip off their own people

Many rulers of modern history shamelessly stole national wealth of their countries

Dictators in power overshadowed the most notorious mobsters. Al Capone's empire would fetch about $1 million each year to one of the most hideous dons of America. The fund of the former Indonesian president Suharto would grow by $1 trillion a year. Lately Transparency International has made a list of the most corrupt politicians of the last few decades.

Villa on the Riviera

A luxurious mansion is sitting on the coast of the Mediterranean. The pines and lemon trees enclose the estate. There are three opulent swimming pools nearby. The estate on the Riviera used to belong to Zaire's dictator Mobuto Sese Seko. The dictator bought it from a Saudi billionaire. Mobuto was a rare visitor to his villa at the beginning. He spent most of his time in another villa located in Switzerland. But the Swiss authorities kindly asked him to leave the country and therefore he settled down on the Riviera. The dictator reportedly paid several million dollars for the estate. The money is just a drop in the ocean for a man who used “his country as a personal bank.”

Mobuto Sese Seko was considered one of the richest men of the world until he was removed from power in 1997. He appropriated from $5 billion to $8 billion which totals nearly 40% of all foreign aid received by Zaire. Aside from the villas in France and Switzerland, Mobuto also bought luxurious houses in Brussels and some other European capitals. An independent inquiry conducted by Swiss bankers shows that the former tyrant left only $3.4 million to his heirs. It remains to be seen what happened to the rest of the money stolen by Mobutu during his 32 years at the helm.

Model daddy

Indonesian president Suharto appropriated even more than Mobuto did - $10 billion – during his 33 years in office. Some experts estimate that wealth owned by the Suharto family nearly totaled 40% of Indonesian GDP. Suharto's sons owned large companies and important strategic facilities. One of the sons owned the international airport in Jakarta. The youngest son Tommi was regarded the boss of the largest national airliner. His eldest brother Sigit was a banker of high caliber.

The Dad also showed a great deal of love and affection to his daughters. His eldest daughter Tutut was a deputy chairperson of the ruling party and also performed duties of the minister of social security. She successfully combined her political activities with business projects. She owned a power plant, a bank, and a taxi company.

The Suharto clan seemed omnipotent. Indonesians even came up with a new interpretation of the name of the ruling party PPP. The new interpretation read “Putra-Putri-President which stood for “sons-daughters-president.” But things came to a close one day. Given numerous violations of the law (special preferences, tax exemption) committed by the former president, the current Indonesian authorities seized a large part of property owned by Suharto and his offspring.

President's feelings still hurt

The former president of Peru Alberto Fuhimori is on the run. Fuhimori was elected president in 1990. He launched a series of economic reforms, some of them were a success. He managed to curb inflation and reduce the unemployment rate. But his tendency to use brutal power in politics made him a dictator.

Investigators became keen to look into Fuhimori's illegal activities when they found out that the president's representative had paid off to a member of Parliament. As it turned out, the president used the Defense Ministry funds for personal purposes. He also took millions of dollars from the state budget.

Fuhimori, an ethnic Japanese, fled Peru in 2000 and surfaced in Japan. He apparently had means for living in Japan, he wired the stolen money to Japanese banks. Meanwhile, some time ago Fuhimori said that he was going to return to Peru and take part in the upcoming presidential election in 2006. “The case against me is a frame-up fabricated by my political enemies,” said he.

Everything for Imelda

Money was no object for the Philippine president Ferdinand Markos if his beloved wife asked him to buy something. During his presidency (1972 – 1986) Markos ripped off a handsome sum ranging from $5 billion to $10 billion dollars. Imelda was in charge of a large part of the funds. She was well-known for shopping sprees. Her jewelry collection was regarded one of the most valuable of its kind in the world. Once she was shopping around for diamonds in Zurich. Having bought $15 million worth of diamonds, she went back to the hotel.

The wife of the president also loved buying personal aircraft and limousines including an armored Rolls-Royce worth $500,000. The Marcos family settled down on the Hawaiian Islands when they were removed from power.

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Author`s name Olga Savka