23. Democratic Republic of Congo
An expert panel led by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan looked at five deals over previous minerals struck between 2010 and 2012, and compared the amount for which the government-owned mines were sold, with independent appraisals of their values. Annan’s report found a gap of $1.36 billion, double the Congo Republic’s state annual budget for health and education.
Tajikistan’s government is characterized by “cronyism and corruption,” according to a WikiLeaks cable written by former U.S. Ambassador Richard E Hoagland. President Emomali Rakhmon runs a “corrupt, alcohol-sodden fiefdom” in which his family controls the country’s major businesses. Most recently Rakhmon appointed his son to head the country’s Customs Service, a lucrative position that will help group the 26-year-old to be Rakhmon’s successor.
Burundi’s lack of economic freedom has left its small economy in the hands of a small group of elites. According to the International Crisis group, “The monopolization of public and private resources risks derailing the peace-building process based on development and economic growth bolstered by efficient state machinery and driven by foreign investment.”
Myanmar internal corruption, known as “tea money” culture, largely stems from the prevalence of bribery and a lack of a legal framework and political will to confront it.
No one apart from high-ranking government officials knows how much public revenue Myanmar collects. Every level of public official, especially those in departments regulating mining, oil, and gas, have been accused of transferring public revenue to their private overseas bank accounts.
Billions of dollars in diamond-related revenue owed to the national treasury remains unaccounted for, according to human rights groups. President Robert Mugabe and his political allies have also been accused of granting lucrative concessions in the Marange diamond fields to Chinese firms. The Zimbabwean military, which oversees the Marange fields, has been accused of systematic human rights abuses and smuggling of diamonds to neighboring Mozambique. Most recently, an internal survey found that Zimbabwe lost $2 billion to corruption last year.
Cambodia’s political and business leaders have exploited the country’s natural resources for personal profit and to shore up their own positions of power. A 2013 report by Global Witness looked at the rubber industry, and highlighted how 400,000 people had been forced off land — without consultation or compensation — in order to sell rubber to international firms.
Eritrea is one of the most militarized countries in Africa, with about 20% of the population currently under conscription. It’s not surprising that the military is considered one of the biggest sources of corruption, with illegal spending of the official government budget, and illicit use of funds for personal purposes.
Venezuela’s newly elected President Nicolás Maduro, who replaced longtime leader Hugo Chávez, has said that fighting corruption is a priority of his government. But Venezuelan analysts say he has a long way to go. Companies ranging from logging to the state-owned iron-ore industry have come under the hammer for rampant corruption. Earlier this year, federal legislators and a local newspaper revealed $1.2 billion in scams from one iron-ore company, as well as a widespread kickback scheme. Most recently, the mayor of Venezuela’s third largest city, Valencia, was detained over accusations of corruption.
Rich in gold, oil, and uranium, Chad’s rampant corruption has left most of its population well below the poverty line giving it the rare distinction of being one of the world’s most corrupt country and one of its poorest. The oil pipeline running from Chad to Cameroon generates billions of dollars annually that the government of Chad has promised to spend on social spending but had instead used for weapons.
14. Equatorial Guinea
Vast oil revenues have funded a lavish lifestyle for the elite of Equatorial Guinea, while 74% of the population lives in poverty. Earlier this year, a collection of cars bought by the son of the president went on sale in Paris after being seized during a corruption inquiry. Téodorin Nguema Obiang, whose father Téodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has been president of Equatorial Guinea for the past 34 years, had a Rolls-Royce Phantom, two Bentleys, a Mercedes Maybach, a Porsche, a Ferrari, a Maserati, and two Bugattis in his private collection.
Known as Africa’s cocaine hub, the value of the drugs funneled through Guinea-Bissau each year is greater than the country’s gross domestic product. The country is used as a midway point for drug traffickers smuggling cocaine between Latin America and Europe. Chronic corruption in the highest levels of government has ensured that the traffickers can operate freely.
Haiti has long been named as the most corrupt country in the Caribbean. In the last three months, over 100 prominent businessmen and local officials have been arrested on corruption charges, but analysts say it’s just the beginning. Corruption is widespread in all centers of government and in the highest levels of Haiti’s political elite, found the Transparency Index. Those who fight corruption are often arrested or killed. Last month, prominent anti-corruption lawyer Andre Michel was arrested after he launched a case against the family of President Michel Martelly.
Corruption is the root cause of Yemen’s stagnant growth, according to researchers at Transparency International. Corruption is crippling the already moribund Yemeni economy, where small business owners are unable to expand or often operate because of arbitrarily imposed fines they are frequently charged by police officers and local officials. Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh used a huge system of patronage, involving everything from diesel allocations to state contracts, to benefit the small number of elites that helped keep his government in power.
Nearly two and a half years into Syria’s civil war, regional experts are still trying to determine where the funds supporting both the rebels and the Syrian government are stemming from. Earlier this year, French prosecutors opened a preliminary investigation into whether an uncle of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad illegally acquired millions of dollars of assets in France. Transparency International was part of a case filed alleging corruption, money laundering, embezzlement of public funds, and misuse of corporate assets by Rifaat al-Assad, a former military commander.
Turkmenistan’s opaque legal system makes the public system highly vulnerable to corruption, while the judicial system employes a widespread system of bribery and graft. Turkmenistan’s president can spend revenues from hydrocarbons sales — the country’s primary source of income — at his discretion while no national budget has ever been published in full.
Corruption in the first family of Uzbekistan has left the president’s daughter, Gulnara Karimova, as one of the “most hated” people in the country, according to a WikiLeaks cable. Gulnara serves her nation as a pop singer, university professor, diplomat, and jewelry designer. More than $1 billion in European assets of the Karimova family have been frozen as part of an ongoing investigation into corruption and money laundering.
War-wracked Iraq has been fighting corruption for years, but millions of dollars continue to be stolen from state coffers. Iraqis report that it is impossible to get a job in the army or government unless bribes are paid, and even then larger bribes can send a person to prison or oust them from a job. A recent study completed by the U.N. Assistance Mission to Iraq found that 50% of those questioned said that corruption is on the rise, noting that the average Iraqi Civil Servant must pay at least four bribes per year.
Corruption in Libya largely stems back to the leadership of Moammar Gadhafi, who ruled Libya for 42 years and enshrined a system of national bribery. Bribes are still widespread in Libya, and often seen as part of the local system of governance. Recently, Libya’s new government, led by Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has been linked to a corruption scandal in the energy sector.
5. South Sudan
South Sudan may have only become a country in 2011, but officials have been accused of the same graft charges as before. South Sudan produces half a million barrels of oil per day. But of the over $10 billion collected in oil revenues, $4 billion has been lost due to public sector corruption.
The Sudanese government controls the country’s oil sector, which Transparency International says is filled with cronyism and graft. Public servants often demand bribes to provide basic services, and government officials are allowed to act with impunity. Regional experts say that the lack of transparency in Sudan allows for widespread corruption at the local levels of government. While the Sudanese government established the country’s first anti-corruption agency in January 2012, the agency has not yet conducted any anti-corruption activities.
Afghanistan has ranked within the top 10 of international corruption lists for years. International aid groups have said that Afghanistan’s endemic corruption constitutes one of the most serious obstacles to the effective use of international aid. International aid accounts for about 90% of the Afghani economy, but each week tens of millions of dollars are “packed into suitcases or boxes and loaded onto planes leaving Kabul International Airport for destinations like Dubai, capital flight that is increasing steadily ahead of the 2014 deadline,” wrote the New York Times. According to several Afghan watchdog groups, the upcoming 2014 presidential elections will be especially vulnerable to fraud, ballot stuffing, and corruption.
2. North Korea
This year’s runner-up to most corrupt country in the world, often makes the top of the list. North Korea’s closed economy and opaque system of government has lead to systematic corruption and public sector bribery. There is little foreign investment in North Korea, and the country is plagued by structural corruption in its political and bureaucratic system since the early 1990s when the Stalinist North Korea collapsed. One of the world’s last remaining communist nations, North Korea is plagued with food and basic good shortages.
Somalia has held onto its slot as the world’s most corrupt country for a second year in a row. A chaotic blend of clans, pirates, and government militias, Somalia is often described as many states within a state — each with its own system of bribes. A U.N. report published earlier this year found that the Somali had become a “slush fund” for patronage networks and that withdrawals from government institutions went towards private purposes rather than government programs 80% of the time. The Wall Street Journal reported on one case, in which a cashier at the Finance Ministry named Shir Axmed Jumcaale withdrew $20.5 million in his name between 2010 and 2013. He then used those funds to make untracked payments for ministry officials.
To see the full list, visit the Transparency International site.
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