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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

It’s not just Trump. These world leaders also got into legal trouble

A pedestrian walks past a new version of a mural painting made by Italian artist and activist aleXsandro Palombo, depicting Italy's late former prime minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, on a street in Milan on July 6, 2023. The first piece of street art celebrating late premier Silvio Berlusconi was found vandalized just a day after it appeared. (Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)  (GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images North America/TNS)
By Paul Richardson and Gregory Korte Bloomberg News

Former President Donald Trump appeared in a Washington courtroom last week on his third set of criminal charges since leaving office, an unprecedented event in the U.S., but one that brings the nation in line with the rest of the world.

Despite protests from Trump allies that prosecutions of politicians are a hallmark of underdeveloped “banana republics,” they’ve also happened in advanced democracies such as France and Germany.

There is a long history of world leaders prosecuted before, during and after holding power with representation across continents, from Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro to South Africa’s Jacob Zuma. Some even held public office again after being charged.

Here are some notable cases:


Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy

Sarkozy, 68, was sentenced in 2021 to a one-year prison term for helping a magistrate land a prestigious job in return for information about a legal investigation. Although the conservative leader lost his appeal, the sentence hasn’t been carried out.

In a separate case, Sarkozy was found guilty of deliberately breaking campaign-finance rules in his failed 2012 reelection bid. He was handed a one-year sentence, but that’s suspended while he appeals.

Former French President Jacques Chirac

In 2011, Chirac, now deceased, became the first French head of state in the modern era to be convicted of a crime after leaving office. The late center-right leader, who was too sick to attend court, was found guilty of misusing Paris city funds when he was mayor of the capital, and convicted to a two-year suspended term.

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl

Kohl, now deceased, faced allegations of corruption and illegal party financing shortly after the conservative bloc lost the 1998 election against the Social Democrats. Prosecutors investigated Kohl for over a year, but finally decided in 2001 to drop the case under the condition that the former chancellor pay a stiff fine, which he did.

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi

Berlusconi, now deceased, by his own reckoning, faced more than 100 probes and trials related to tax fraud, bribery and unlawful sex, among other allegations, during his political career.

Italy’s longest-serving postwar prime minister won decades of acquittals, but after a 2013 tax fraud conviction stuck, he lost his Senate seat and was banned from holding public office. True to form, he still pulled off a comeback of sorts in 2022, when he was allowed to run for office again and reelected to parliament.

Middle East

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Netanyahu, 73, Israel’s first active prime minister to stand trial, faces charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Prosecutors allege the country’s longest-serving premier abused his position to illicitly accept — and at times demand — fine wines and expensive cigars from billionaire friends. They also maintain he undermined the integrity of his office to win favorable media coverage. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.


Former South African President Jacob Zuma

Zuma, 81, was sentenced to 15 months in prison for contempt of court in 2021, after he refused to testify at a judicial commission of inquiry into state graft during his nine-year rule. He was released on medical parole after serving a few months in jail. Zuma is currently on trial facing accusations that he accepted bribes related to a 1999 arms deal.

Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo

Gbagbo, 78, was accused by the International Criminal Court of crimes against humanity in late 2011. He spent years at The Hague before the court acquitted him in 2019, which was upheld in 2021. Gbagbo was also convicted of breaking into a branch of the West African central bank during a post-election conflict in 2011 and faced a 20-year prison sentence. He was pardoned by current Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara in 2022.

Former Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore

Compaore, 72, was convicted in 2022 of the murder of Thomas Sankara, the iconic African leader who died in a coup 35 years ago. He was sentenced to life in prison. Compaore is currently living in exile in Ivory Coast.

Former Guinean President Alpha Conde

Conde, 85, who was overthrown in a coup in 2021, has been accused of complicity in murder, abductions, sexual violence, and forced disappearances. The charges relate to deadly electoral violence in 2020 following Conde’s controversial bid for a third term in office. His trial has yet to start.

Former Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel-Aziz

Abdel-Aziz, 66, who ruled the North African nation from 2009 until 2019, is currently on trial facing charges of abuse of office, influence peddling, money laundering and illicit enrichment. His defense attorney has said the charges are political and intended to damage his reputation.

Former Botswana President Ian Khama

Khama, 70, has been charged with the unlawful possession of firearms, offenses that state prosecutors say occurred during his decade-long presidency that ended in 2018. Khama is currently in neighboring South Africa, where he faces extradition proceedings.


Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan

Khan, 70, the former cricket star was just arrested and convicted of hiding the proceeds from selling state gifts when he was in power and sentenced to three years. Khan has more than 170 legal cases since being ousted from office in April last year. These range from charges of corruption and murder to terrorism and violence. He was also briefly arrested in one of the cases in May, a development that sparked violence across Pakistan and a crackdown against the leader’s political party.

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak

Najib, 70, is on trial on charges of money laundering and abuse of power over the alleged misuse of 2.3 billion ringgit ($508 million) belonging to 1MDB, the state investment fund that became the focus of a scandal that spawned multiple probes in Asia, the U.S. and Europe.

The court hearing will resume Aug. 14. He’s also serving a 12-year prison sentence for a separate corruption conviction linked to 1MDB’s former unit SRC International. He’s the first former Malaysian leader to be convicted and jailed for corruption.

Former Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra

Thaksin, 74, ousted in a 2006 military coup, fled Thailand 15 years ago to avoid corruption charges that he said were politically motivated. He was found guilty in absentia in four graft cases, with offenses including illegally concealing shares in a telecommunications company that he had founded and conflict of interests over a state-owned bank’s loan to Myanmar government. Thaksin will face 10 years upon his return to Thailand, which had been slated for Aug. 10 but was delayed to later in the month.

Philippine President Joseph Estrada

Estrada, 86, was impeached in 2000 on bribery and corruption accusations, but his Senate trial was cut short after a mass uprising triggered his resignation in early 2001. He was subsequently charged with plunder for allegedly receiving kickbacks, and was found guilty in 2007. Just months after his conviction, he was pardoned by his successor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who herself faced allegations of plundering before being acquitted by the top court.

South Korean Presidents Roh-Tae Woo, Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-Hye

Roh is deceased. Lee is 81; Park is 71. Since its advent to full democracy in the late 1980s, almost every South Korean president has been mired in legal troubles after leaving office. Roh was sentenced to 22-1/2 years in prison for accepting hundreds of millions of dollars for a slush fund while president. Lee got 17 years for a corruption scheme involving his brother’s auto parts company. Park was impeached, removed from office and sentenced to more than 20 years in prison for corruption. All were pardoned by successors.

Former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang

Tsang, 78, became the financial hub’s first former leader convicted of a criminal charge when he was sentenced for 20 months in prison for misconduct in office in 2017. Tsang failed to disclose a conflict of interest when negotiating rent for a luxury apartment with a landlord applying for a broadcasting license from the city. He was later cleared on a technicality after he’d served 12 months of his sentence.

Latin America

Former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet

Pinochet, who is now deceased, was an Army general who ruled the country between 1973 and 1990. He was arrested in London in 1998 on charges of genocide and terrorism. Pinochet was released in 2000 on medical grounds and returned to Chile, where he was indicted and ordered into house arrest six years later.

Former Ecuador President Rafael Correa

Correa, 60, fled to Belgium during an investigation into his involvement with Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction conglomerate that has admitted to paying bribes to public officials across the continent. He was convicted in absentia and sentences to eight years in prison, but is plotting his party’s return to power through a snap election this month.

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro

Bolsonaro, 68, the so-called “Trump of the Tropics,” is barred from running for public office until 2030 after a Brazilian court found that he abused his power by spreading misinformation about the country’s electronic voting system in an effort to stay in power. In May, police raided his home in search of forged COVID vaccination cards allegedly used to evade travel restrictions by aides and family members. He’s also under investigation for leaking classified information.

Every Peruvian president elected since 1990

Alberto Fujimori, 85, was convicted of human rights abuses (including kidnappings and murders by government death squads), bribery and embezzlement. He has been pardoned twice and had those pardons overturned twice.

Alejandro Toledo, 77, was extradited from the U.S. to Peru in April to face trial on charges of corruption and money laundering. Alan Garcia was implicated in the same corruption scandal but shot himself in the head and died as police came to arrest him.

Ollanta Humala, 61, is awaiting trial on corruption charges related to the same investigation. Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, 84, was impeached and resigned before he could be removed from office; he’s now in jail awaiting trial.

The last democratically elected president, Pedro Castillo, 53, largely avoided the corruption scandal that felled his predecessors but battled with a Congress that tried to impeach him three times. When he tried to dissolve Congress, he was impeached and arrested for sedition and high treason.

North America

Former U.S. President Richard Nixon

Nixon, now deceased, resigned in 1974, 10 days after the House Judiciary Committee adopted articles of impeachment that could have resulted in his removal from office. Those articles charged him with obstruction of justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress for attempting to cover up the burglary of his opponent’s headquarters in the Watergate building — the scandal that would tag future political scandals with the -gate suffix. Vice President Gerald Ford became president and later pardoned Nixon for any crimes he may have committed.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton

Clinton, 76, was impeached in 1998 on two articles charging him with obstruction of justice and lying under oath arising out of his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky. The Senate failed to reach the two-thirds vote needed to remove him from office. After he left office in 2001, the Supreme Court suspended his law license, and he resigned before being fully disbarred from practicing law.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump

Trump, 77, has racked up more legal problems than all of his 43 predecessors combined. The House impeached him twice — once on charges that he enlisted the help of Ukraine to influence the 2020 presidential election, and again after the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

He was acquitted by the Senate each time. Since then, he’s been indicted three times for criminal conduct before, after and during his presidency: For arranging hush-money payments to a porn actress before the 2016 election, for mishandling classified information after he left office — and now, for obstructing the peaceful transfer of power after he was voted out of office in 2020.

If convicted on the more serious charges, he could face the rest of his life in prison, but a conviction wouldn’t block him from taking office in 2025 if he’s elected president next year.