Home HOME Around the world, criminal charges are no barrier to high office | CNN

Around the world, criminal charges are no barrier to high office | CNN

Around the world, criminal charges are no barrier to high office | CNN



Donald Trump may be the first former US president to face criminal charges, but around the world many current and former leaders have been prosecuted or even spent time in jail.

Many of those leaders denounced the accusations against them as politically-motivated. But charges have often not been a barrier to holding political office.

Here are some notable recent examples.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Berlin, March 16, 2023.

No one has served as Israeli prime minister longer than Benjamin Netanyahu, who was sworn in for his sixth term in the post late last year.

The prime minister is also currently facing a corruption trial, on charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust. Some of the allegations assert that Netanyahu received gifts like cigars and champagne from overseas businessmen.

Echoing some of the language used by Trump, Netanyahu has denied all the charges and called the trial a “witch hunt.”

As the case rumbles on, Netanyahu has been pushing a controversial plan to weaken Israel’s judicary.

One of the measures includes limits on the ways a sitting prime minister can be declared unfit for office, leading to many Israeli opposition politicians claiming that Netanyahu is using the judicial overhaul to protect himself. He denies the accusations.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva speaks during a campaign rally at Centro de Convenções Ulysses Guimarães on July 12, 2022 in Brasilia, Brazil.

Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was imprisoned in April 2018, spending a year and a half behind bars until his release in November 2019.

He was sentenced for corruption and money laundering, after he and his wife allegedly received about $1.1 million in improvements and expenses from a construction company for a beachfront apartment.

In exchange, prosecutors said, the company was able to obtain lucrative contracts from Petrobras, the state-controlled oil giant.

Lula has called the charges a “farce,” claiming the charges were politically motivated. Following his release from prison in 2019, a Brazilian court threw out his corruption convictions, which allowed Lula to run in the 2022 presidential election where he defeated Jair Bolsonaro. He was sworn in as president for the third time in January.

It is now Bolsonaro who faces potential legal problems, including accusations that he incited violent attacks in the capital, Brasilia, in January.

Argentina's Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner speaks to supporters during a rally to celebrate the Militancy Day at the Unico de La Plata stadium in La Plata, Argentina, on November 17, 2022.

Argentinian Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was sentenced to six years in prison last December after being found guilty of corruption during her two terms as president, from 2007 to 2011 and 2011 to 2015.

She was accused of conspiring with other government officials to award contracts worth millions of dollars for road works that, according to the complaint, were incomplete, overpriced and unnecessary.

Fernández de Kirchner has said the charges against her were politically-motivated.

The Argentinian court found the 70-year-old, who had previously served as the country’s president, guilty of “fraudulent administration” and disqualified her from holding public office again.

She does, though, have temporary immunity because of her current role, meaning she won’t be going to jail soon, and can appeal.

Malaysia's leader Anwar Ibrahim, chairman of the Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope), shows his inked finger after voting at a polling station during the general election in Permatang Pauh, Malaysia's Penang state, on November 19, 2022.

In an extraordinary change in fortune, Anwar Ibrahim became Malaysian prime minister in November 2022 after two stints in prison prior to his premiership.

Anwar was jailed in April 1999 after being convicted of sodomy. Even if consensual, sodomy is an offense punishable by up to 20 years in prison in Muslim-majority Malaysia. He has always strongly denied the charges, claiming they were politically motivated.

That conviction was overturned by a court in 2004. After his return as an opposition figure, more allegations of sodomy were made against him and – following a protracted court battle that took place over a period of years – he returned to jail in 2014.

Anwar received a royal pardon and was released from prison in May 2018. He quickly returned to parliament, before leading the Pakatan Harapan coalition to win a plurality of seats in the 2022 Malaysian general election.

Silvio Berlusconi attends the La7 TV program

The flamboyant Italian tycoon was a serial prime minister until standing down in 2011.

Berlusconi was the dominant figure in Italian politics for nearly two decades, a period which also saw him tried on at least 17 charges, involving allegations of embezzlement, tax fraud and bribery.

He has always denied wrongdoing and many of the cases were overturned on appeal.

It was not legal worries but Italy’s debt crisis that led to his 2011 resignation.

After leaving office, Berlusconi was subsequently convicted of tax fraud, where he was sentenced to one year of community service at a nursing home, while a court overturned his conviction for paying for sex with an underage prostitute.

Berlusconi was also found guilty of bribing a senator to change political factions, but did not serve prison time.

In September 2022, the 81-year-old won a seat in Italy’s Senate and his party is part of Italy’s ruling coalition.


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