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Tunisian royals, the Malaysian Prime Minister and islands in the Maldives: Corruption scandals that shook the world

Beach huts in the Maldives

Sadly, corruption is a scourge around the world that causes misery to millions and enriches those who carry it out.

It is often carried out by those with huge power and the biggest cases have seen millions and even billions of dollars stolen.

Citizens, politicians, and media worldwide vigorously condemn these abuses of power, which often result in lengthy jail sentences.

Although much progress has been made to improve responsibility, raise an understanding of how corruption happens and change standards and perceptions, there is still a long way to go to learn from these scandals and fight crime effectively.


Here are some of the biggest corruption scandals around the world in recent history.


Stopping competition in Tunisia

In Tunisia, you will be surprised to know there are no Big Macs.

This is because the McDonald's franchise was given to a business that didn't have relations to the ruling family, and therefore government banned the fast-food chain from the country.

President Ben Ali created laws from 1987 to 2011, meaning businesses needed approval to invest and trade in specific sectors.

This let him shut down competition while allowing 220 family businesses to dominate multiple industries.

This included transport, telecommunications, and real estate.

In 2010, these companies made up three percent of Tunisia's economic outcome but took 21 percent of profits from the private sector.

Unsurprisingly, the Ben Ali family got US$13 billion.

Tunisian residents paid a massive price for this and missed out on many job opportunities, while new entrepreneurs and investors not involved in the corruption usually failed.

In 2011 Ben Ali fled the country, and all his assets were sold off.

Some of the particularly restrictive laws have been rescinded, and connected firms with privy access continue to reinforce and profit from imbalance.

The 1MDB fund

It is estimated that over US$4 billion was stolen in one of the world's biggest corruption scandals; 1MDB.

In 2009, the Malaysian government set up a development fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Ran by the ex-prime minister, Najib Razak, the fund was initially made to boost the country's economy through investing strategically.

However, it appears to have increased the bank accounts of certain people, including the ex-prime minister, a fugitive broker, and a US rapper.

Through a group of outside organizations and many transactions, billions of dollars of supposed development money were spent on paintings, luxury real estate in New York, and gifts for celebrities.

Over $700 million could be held in Razak's private account.

Although he claims a prince in Saudi Arabia donated the money.

Razak was found guilty in 2020, but has yet to spend any time in prison after launching a series of appeals.

Maldives: a lost paradise

Tourism is one of the primary money sources for the economy in the Maldives but one of the country's biggest corruption scandals is linked to tourism.

In 2016, Al Jazeera revealed around $1.5 billion was stolen through fake tourism investments.

The money was allegedly sent to the Maldives in cash authorized by the financial authority and then transferred to private corporations, which seemed to be real profits from tourism investments.

This wasn't the only scandal.

In 2018 over 50 islands and coral lagoons were leased out to tourism innovators.

$79 million from the lease fees was stolen into personal bank accounts and then used to bribe government officials.

The scandal involved international tourism operators, local business people, and ex-president Abdulla Yameen, who received $1 million.

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