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Your Government May Be Corrupt—But Is It Azerbaijan-Corrupt?

Every country suffers from corruption, but some are worse than others. Nations in Transit 2014, a report released today by Freedom House, rates democratic development in 29 formerly communist countries. The list below illustrates the full range of malfeasance that can occur along the report’s 1–7 scale, with 7 indicating the worst performance.

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Slovenia (Score: 2.5)—Graft and Punishment

Via Wikimedia Commons

Former Slovene prime minister Janez Janša was charged in 2010 with seeking €2 million in bribes from the Finnish arms company Patria. He denied the charges, but further investigations and protests over corruption forced him from office in February 2013, and the courts eventually sentenced him to two years in prison that June.

Czech Republic (Score: 3.5)—Plying Bribes and Spying Brides

Via Wikimedia Commons

In a plot worthy of daytime TV, former Czech prime minister Petr Nečas has been charged with bribing lawmakers to pass legislation. His chief of staff and mistress, Jana Nagyová, allegedly brokered the deal, and is also accused of ordering military intelligence to spy on Nečas's wife, among other abuses. Nečas resigned in June 2013, and trials are imminent, but the ousted leader has divorced his wife and married his codefendant, protecting them from testifying against each other.

Bulgaria (Score: 4.25)—The Political-Media Complex

euractiv.com / Via EurActiv

The Bulgarian government in June 2013 tried to appoint Delyan Peevski, a 32-year-old media mogul with no security background, to head Bulgaria's equivalent of the FBI. Peevski's media conglomerate loyally supports whatever party is in power, and is financed by a bank that profits from state deposits. Fed up with such mutual back-scratching, Bulgarians took to the streets for months of angry protests. Peevski's appointment was quickly revoked, but he kept his position in the parliament, and went on to win a seat in the European Parliament last month, which he was then forced to decline after widespread criticism.

Albania (Score: 5.25)—Blind Justice

albaniaspeaks.com / Via Albania Speaks Blog

Ilir Meta, a canny political survivor, was apparently caught on tape discussing corrupt dealings with a fellow cabinet minister and bragging about his illicit influence over the Supreme Court. He resigned as deputy prime minister after the video emerged in early 2011, but—perhaps unsurprisingly—the Supreme Court dismissed the case for lack of evidence the following year. After a well-timed exit from the ruling coalition, Meta and his party joined the winning bloc in the 2013 elections, and he is now the speaker of parliament. The other minister in the video also avoided punishment.

Ukraine (Score: 6.25)—Thief in Chief

Via Wikimedia Commons

Former president Viktor Yanukovych, before he fled Kyiv in a hurry in February, brazenly helped himself to public wealth and collected kickbacks from favored business magnates, including a clique—known as "The Family"—that was led by his son and became inexplicably wealthy during the president's truncated tenure. Yanukovych spent his ill-gotten riches on projects like a colossal "cottage" outside the capital, equipped with a lavish stone soaking tub, chandeliers worth €30 million, a private zoo, and a pirate-ship restaurant.

Azerbaijan (Score: 6.75)—Dynastic Kleptocracy

Via Wikimedia Commons

President Ilham Aliyev, who essentially inherited his office upon the death of his father, is widely understood to have enriched himself and his family by siphoning funds from the state oil company, though the country's tight restrictions on media freedom and judicial independence make it nearly impossible to take the ample evidence to the Azeri public or an impartial court. Such dynastic corruption is not limited to the president's family. The son of Transport Minister Ziya Mammadov happens to own the country's largest passenger transport business and other enterprises that benefit from state contracts in the transport sector.

For full reports on these and other countries, visit www.freedomhouse.org.

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