Modern mega-kleptocracies are certainly not as rare as the “Asian unicorn” (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis), the latter only ever seen 4 times in the wild according to the World Wildlife Federation.
They may be dead, but in the memories of many will be Mobutu Sese Seko (1930-1997) of Zaire (now reverted to its former name of the Congo), Ferdinand Marcos (1917-1989) of the Philippines, and Suharto (1921-2008) of Indonesia.
These individuals treated as absolutely coextensive their country’s treasury and their own bank accounts.
Certainly, there are others, not typically regarded in the west as kleptocrats, who do not likewise observe any distinction between their personal coffers and the nation’s wealth—cases in point would be the Saudi and Gulf sheikhdoms, as well as the Sultan of Brunei, the latter much in the news for his decree mandating the stoning to death of anyone allegedly engaging in homosexual activity.
The dividing line between the two sets of cases (Mobutu et al. vs the Arab sheikhs and the Sultan of Brunei) seems opaque and difficult to define—the mega-kleptocrats a la Mobutu “stole foreign aid” among other things, but what if the foreign money is deposited directly into the personal coffers of a despot, as is the case with the several Arab sheikhdoms (19 of 21 Arab states scored below 50 in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2017, which surveys levels of corruption in the…