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10 bribery scandals that shocked the world

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Bribery scandals have not only tainted the political arena but have also seeped into the corporate world, undermining public trust in major institutions.

Bribery is defined as: "The offering, giving, soliciting, or receiving of any item of value as a means of influencing the actions of an individual holding a public or legal duty."

Here's a look at ten of the most significant bribery scandals in the US, encompassing both the political and corporate spheres:

Abscam (1980s)

Abscam, short for "Abdul Enterprises, Ltd.," was an FBI sting operation in the 1980s that targeted political corruption and bribery.

It is one of the most significant public corruption scandals in U.S. history and resulted in the conviction of several politicians and public officials.

The operation took two years and saw the FBI set up a fake Arabian company which then offered US politicians bribes.

They were videotaped accepting the money in favour of political favours and jailed.

Among those arrested and convicted were:

  • US Senator Harrison A. Williams - Jailed for three years
  • US Representative Frank Thompson - Jailed for three years
  • US Representative John Jenrette - Jailed for two years
  • US Representative Raymond Lederer - Jailed for three years
  • US Representative Michael "Ozzie" Myers - Jailed for three years
  • US Representative John M. Murphy - Jailed for three years
  • US Representative Richard Kelly - Jailed for 13 months

Some more honorable members of congress and high profile figures were also approached but declined.

One was Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione, who responded by saying "Are you out of your mind?"

Teapot Dome Scandal (1920s)

The Teapot Dome Scandal of the 1920s was a major political scandal in the United States, involving corruption at the highest levels of government.

It centered around the improper leasing of federal oil reserves, particularly the Teapot Dome naval oil reserve in Wyoming, during the administration of President Warren G. Harding.

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The Salt Lake City Olympic Bid Scandal (1990s)

The Salt Lake City Olympic bid scandal of the 1990s is one of the most notorious cases of corruption in the history of the Olympic Games.

It involved allegations of bribery, illicit payments, and unethical conduct surrounding Salt Lake City's bid to host the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Members of the Salt Lake's bid committee spent $1 million in cash, scholarships, medical care, gifts and other favours to IOC members and their families.

10 members of the IOC were expelled and another 10 were sanctioned.

It's important to note nothing illegal had been done, but it was felt the acceptance of gifts was morally dubious.

The scandal led more stringent rules over future bids and limits were put in over how much IOC members could accept from bid cities.

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (2000s)

Rod Blagojevich was the 40th governor of Illinois and served from 2003 to 2009.

His time in office was marked by controversy, most notably the scandal that led to his impeachment and subsequent criminal conviction.

Rod Blagojevich was arrested on December 9, 2008, for being found guilty of public corruption after he attempted to sell the U.S. Senate seat which was vacated by Barack Obama at the time upon his election to the presidency.

Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2011.

His was released by President Trump in 2020.

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Enron Scandal (2001)

The Enron scandal, which came to light in 2001, is one of the most infamous corporate fraud cases in history.

The Enron scandal involved Enron Corporation, a once-respected American energy, commodities, and services company.

It led to significant financial losses for investors, the bankruptcy of Enron, and the dissolution of the Arthur Andersen accounting firm.

Walmart in Mexico (2010s)

The Walmart de Mexico scandal, which occurred in the early 2010s, is a significant case of corporate corruption and unethical business practices that involved the Mexican subsidiary of the American multinational retail corporation, Walmart Inc.

This scandal brought to light allegations of bribery and cover-ups related to the company's expansion efforts in Mexico.

The retail giant eventually paid out $282 million to settle the case in 2019.

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Siemens AG bribery scandal (2000s)

The Siemens AG scandal of the 2000s is one of the most significant corporate corruption cases in recent history.

It involved the German multinational conglomerate Siemens AG and exposed a massive, systematic pattern of bribery and corruption that extended across the globe.

The scandal had far-reaching consequences for Siemens, resulting in substantial fines, executive resignations, and a renewed focus on corporate ethics.

Siemens eventually agreed to pay over $1.6 billion in fines in both the US and Germany.

Halliburton and the Nigeria Bribery Scandal (2000s)

The Halliburton and Nigeria bribery scandal, which took place in the 2000s, is a significant case of international corporate corruption involving one of the world's largest oilfield services companies, Halliburton, and its subsidiaries.

This scandal had far-reaching implications and highlighted issues related to corruption, corporate ethics, and foreign business practices.

The companies agreed to pay $579 million in fines.

Unaoil Scandal (2010s)

The Unaoil scandal, which unfolded in the 2010s, is a case of international corporate corruption that involved bribery, kickbacks, and illicit practices within the global oil and gas industry.

The scandal came to light in 2016 when investigative journalists from various news outlets, including The Age, The Huffington Post, and The Guardian, collaborated on a series of reports based on leaked documents.

The scandal unfolded in Iraq and say four officials charged with corruption by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

They were:

  • Ziad Akle, Unaoil’s former Iraq territory manager;
  • Stephen Whiteley, former vice president of SBM Offshore and subsequently Unaoil’s general territories manager;
  • Basil Al Jarah, Unaoil’s former partner in Iraq; and
  • Paul Bond, SBM Offshore’s former sales manager.

Al Jarah admitted five offences of conspiracy to give corrupt payments.

During the trial of the other three defendants, it was heard how they conspired with members of the Ahsani family - owners of Unaoil to pay Oday al Quraishi – an official in the state-owned South Oil Company – to influence tenders in favor of their clients, including SBM Offshore

It was also revealed Unaoil paid officials in the Iraqi Ministry of Oil to get projects approved.

The SFO said $5.4 million was paid to senior officials for approval of construction projects, including two pipeplies worth $800 million.

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FIFA Corruption Scandal (2010s)

While FIFA is an international body, the US Department of Justice played a significant role in unveiling a vast bribery and corruption scheme involving media rights and the awarding of World Cup hosting rights.

Several executives and entities, including boss Sepp Blatter and those based in the US, faced charges.

Blatter and his deputy, French football legend Michel Platini, were eventually cleared last year.

Both have been given life bans from football.

These scandals serve as a reminder of the importance of robust oversight, ethical business practices, and the need for stringent anti-bribery laws and regulations.

They underscore the fact that both the public and private sectors are vulnerable to corrupt practices, emphasizing the need for vigilance at all levels.

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