April 11, 2024

From Car Wash to FIFAgate: corruption scandals that rocked the world

From Car Wash to FIFAgate: corruption scandals that rocked the world

Former South African President Jacob Zuma (C) walks out of court after the private prosecution trial, where Zuma is suing South African President Cyril Ramaphosa over a leaked medical report linked to a 1990s arms corruption trial, in Johannesburg on April 11, 2024. (Photo by EMMANUEL CROSET / AFP)

A look at some of the biggest corruption scandals of the past 20 years after Vietnam on Thursday sentenced to death a property tycoon accused of corruption causing an estimated $27 billion (25 billion euros) in damages.

– Malaysia’s wealth fund –

Former Malaysian premier Najib Razak was jailed for his role in the embezzlement of billions of dollars from the country’s sovereign wealth fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

The alleged mastermind of the scheme, which the US Department of Justice described in 2016 as the “largest kleptocracy case to date”, was an advisor to Najib, Jho Low.

The scandal, which led to investigations around the world — two men went on trial in Switzerland earlier this month in connection with the case — led to the fall of Najib’s government in 2018.

– Brazil’s ‘Car Wash’ –

Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht was at the centre of the so-called Car Wash corruption scandal that erupted in 2014 and resulted in dozens of top businessmen and politicians in Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America being sent to jail.

The investigation uncovered a vast network of bribes paid by large construction companies to politicians in several countries to obtain major public works contracts.

According to the US Justice Department, Odebrecht paid more than $788 million in bribes from 2001 to 2016, resulting in $3.3 billion in ill-gotten benefits.

– Panama Papers –

The 2016 revelations known as the “Panama Papers” tax evasion scandal revealed how some of the world’s richest people hid their assets in offshore companies.

Former British Prime Minister David Cameron, football star Lionel Messi, Argentina’s then President Mauricio Macri and Spain’s filmmaker Pedro Almodovar were among those implicated by the leaked trove of 11.5 million files from Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based law firm.

Since the leak, governments have clawed back over $1.24 billion in unpaid taxes, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

– Siemens ‘black funds’-

German engineering giant Siemens in 2006 was at the heart of the largest corruption scandal in recent German history.

In 2008, the group settled a case in the US where it pleaded guilty to paying bribes to win contracts in more than 20 countries and paid $1.6 billion in fines and the return of ill-gotten gains.

– FIFAgate –

In 2015, a $200 million bribery scandal rocked the world’s football governing body and dramatically culminated in the downfall of FIFA boss Sepp Blatter.

Dozens of football executives were arrested as part of a US investigation into bribes paid by companies to football officials in exchange for television and marketing rights.

South American football bosses Juan Angel Napout and Jose Maria Marin were jailed for nine and four years respectively.

– Spain’s conservatives on the take –

One of Spain’s biggest corruption scandals brought down the centre-right government of former prime minister Mariano Rajoy after it emerged that officials from his Popular Party (PP) took bribes in return for juicy public contracts between 1999 and 2005 in various regions including Madrid.

The PP was convicted in 2018 of having benefitted from the corruption during a mega trial involving 29 former party officials, businessmen and their spouses.

The case was nicknamed the Gurtel case after the German word for “correa”, the surname of the businessman at the heart of the case, Francisco Correa.

– India’s 2G scam –

India’s then ruling Congress Party was plunged into crisis in 2010 over alleged irregularities in the awarding of television spectrum licenses that caused an outpouring of anger in India.

The so-called “2G scam” scandal broke when a government auditor estimated that by underpricing licenses and favouring certain firms, the Congress-led coalition had cost the treasury as much as $39 billion in lost revenues — equal to the country’s defence budget.

The then telecom minister and several other politicians were cleared of any wrongdoing after a marathon trial.

– ‘State capture’ in S.Africa –

In South Africa, the use by the wealthy Gupta family of a military base to fly Bollywood stars and other guests to a lavish wedding in 2013 blew the cover on a colossal system of so-called “state capture” that cost the country billions of dollars.

A marathon inquiry found that former President Jacob Zuma had “opened the doors” to the Gupta brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh to “go into state-owned enterprises and help themselves to the money and assets of the people of South Africa”, which they used to create a sprawling business empire.

The revelation of the plundering led to Zuma’s downfall.