The indictment of former US President Donald Trump should technically end his political career — especially if he is convicted ahead of next year’s presidential elections.
It’s the first time that a former president is forced to stand trial for criminal conduct, in his case, related to cases of illegal business deals and hush money worth up to $130,000 paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels before the year 2016.
Criminal charges are not good for any president, and they ruined the illustrious career of former president Richard Nixon, who resigned in 1974 before being impeached over illegal conduct related to the Republican bugging of the Democratic Party at the Watergate Office, two years earlier.
He was never formally charged and subsequently pardoned by his successor, Gerald Ford. We also had the famous case of Bill Clinton who lied under oath about his affair with Monika Lewinsky. It ruined his career and stained his reputation for years to come.
Trump can nevertheless draw inspiration from other heads of state who like him, were charged after leaving office. Not all of them were from failed states and what he called Third World countries. Some managed to avoid jail and reinvent themselves, like Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi, who now sits in the Italian Senate.
Others received suspended sentences due to their age, like former French president Jacques Chirac. Many, however, ended their careers in jail. Here is a list of some of the world’s leaders who found themselves in situations similar to the one Trump faces today:
Benjamin Netanyahu: The longest-serving prime minister of Israel, has been on trial since December 2016 on charges of fraud and receiving valuable presents from wealthy acquaintances. This included $195,000 worth of cigars and champagne, and $3,100 worth of $3,100 jewellery for his wife. His trial began during his second term at the premiership (2009-2021).
On 21 November 2019, Netanyahu was officially indicted for breach of trust, deception, acceptance of bribes, and fraud. Another trial began in Jerusalem on 24 May 2020, which didn’t prevent him from winning a third round at the premiership in 2022.
Ehud Olmert (2006-2009): Netanyahu’s predecessor was convicted after leaving office in 2014 of accepting bribes to promote real estate projects in Jerusalem during his tenure as mayor and trade minister. He was sentenced to 27 months in prison and later paroled and fined with $21,000.
In May 2008, he was subject of another investigation of bribery, claiming that he took campaign contributions from a Jewish-American businessman over a fifteen-year period.
In March 2015, Olmert was convicted in Jerusalem District Court of fraud, breach of trust, and tax evasion. He was sentenced to eight months in a suspended prison sentence.
Former Israeli president Moshe Katsav was sentenced to seven years in prison back in 2011, five years after leaving office, for raping a former employee before becoming president. He was jailed and released five years later.
Michel Temer was the 37th president of Brazil from August 2016-December 2018. He was accused of bribing others and accepting more than $1.5 million in funds from a leading construction company, guised as legal campaign money.
He was later accused of pocketing another $2.9 million in illegal campaign donations. On 26 June 2017, he was charged with accepting bribes and on 21 March 2019, arrested.
Lula da Silvais is the current president of Brazil who was sworn-in last January and had previously served as president in 2003-2010. After leaving office, nine lawsuits were brought against him, and an official investigation began in April 2015. He was accused, among other things, of influence peddling, illegal bribes and money laundering.
On 4 March 2016, his house was raided by Brazilian authorities. He was subsequently convinced of accepting $1.2 million in bribe money and sentenced to nine and a half years in jail.
Another court found him guilty of corruption and money laundering and sentenced him to 12 years in jail. He spent 580 days in prison before the court decisions were nullified. He was released in November 2019 and was allowed to return to politics, winning the latest election and returning to office.
Najib Razak, the former prime minister of Malaysia is presently in jail over corruption money received in a multi-million-dollar scandal related to his years in power (April 2009 – May 2018).
He was arrested in July 2018, 10 years after leaving office, tried, and found guilty of money laundering and corruption. A Malaysian court sentenced him to 12-years in prison, which he has appealed, with no luck, and from his jail cell, is now applying for a royal pardon.
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner — the former president of Argentina — came close to being jailed for treason. She had previously served as First Lady of Argentina during the presidency of her husband (2003-2007) then as president herself in 2007-2015.
During her two terms as president, she was accused of bribery, corruption, and obstructing investigation into a 1994 suicide attack against a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires. In 2017, an arrest warrant was issued in her name on charges of "treason."
Due to parliamentary immunity, she did not go to prison and the treason accusation was subsequently dropped although other criminal charges remained and on 6 December 2022, she was sentenced to six years in prison and a lifetime ban on holding public office. Her current post as vice-president of Argentina sheltered her from arrest.
Her predecessor Carlos Menem (1989-1999) had previously been investigated on corruption charges, including illegal arms trafficking (for which he was sentenced to seven years in prison), embezzlement of public funds (which got him four and a half years of prison), extortion and bribery (from he was declared innocent). His position as senator earned him immunity from jail and he ran for the 2003 elections but was defeated.
Paraguay's president Luis Macchi held office between 1999-2003. Three years later he was sentenced to eight years in prison for fraud and embezzlement, a sentence that was later appealed.
Park Geun-hey was the 11th president of South Korean and the first to ever been impeached while in office. She was elected in February 2013 and investigations into corruption and accepting bribe money led to her impeachment on 6 December 2016.
On 6 April 2018 she was found guilty of all charges brought against her and sentenced to 25 years in prison. After serving jail time for four years, her successor President Moon Jae-in pardoned her on compassionate grounds, ordering her release on 31 December 2021.
Her predecessor, Lee Myung-bak was was also humiliated with corruption charges, after serving as president in 2008-2013. Before that, he was CEO of Hyundai Engineering and Construction and mayor of Seoul in 2002-2006.
On 22 March 2018 Lee was arrested on charges of bribery, embezzlement, and tax evasion. He was convinced on 5 October 2018 and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Lee was given a special presidential pardon on 27 December 2022, cancelling his remaining prison time.
Before that was the case of president Roh Moo-hyuan (2003-2008) who committed suicide in May 2009 while facing corruption charges. He had acknowledged that a businessman gave $6 million to his relatives but denied that they were bribes.
Chen Shui-bian, a retired general and former president of Taiwan between 2000-2008, was tried after leaving office and found guilty of bribery and corruption, along with his wife. Chen was sentenced to life in prison, which was later commuted to 19-years. He went to jail in 2009 and was released on medical parole on 5 January 2015.
Silvio Berlusconi went through 34 trials during his political career, including corruption, sex abuse, misuse of public office, and tax evasion. While in office he was brought to trial for having sex with an underage prostitute. However, it was tax evasion that formally led to his criminal conviction on 1 August 2013, less than two years after resigning from his fourth term at the premiership.
Before that he had served for a total of nine years as premier, creating four governments between 1994-2011. The Supreme Court of Cassation sentenced him to four years of jail.
Due to his status and age, he didn't serve prison time but went for unpaid community service instead. When the legal ban on holding public office expired, he was elected to the EU Parliament in 2019 and in 2022, to the Italian Senate.
Enrique Pena Nieto, the 64th president of Mexico, was put on trial while still in-office in October 2017 for receiving illegal money during the 2012 presidential campaign. Nieto served as president between 2012-2018 and was accused of receiving bribes from the Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht in exchange for granting them lucrative contracts in Mexico.
Jacques Chirac: Two years and five months after leaving office in May 2007, the former president of France was called to trial on corruption charges, which included, among other things, creating fake jobs for his associates when serving as mayor of Paris.
Citing old age and memory loss, he skipped the trial that began on 7 March 2011, which found him guilty of illegal conduct, abuse of the people's trust, and misuse of public funds. He was given a two-year suspended sentence due to his advanced age and status as a former head of state.
Chirac's successor Nicolas Sarkozy retired from politics after failing to win the presidential primaries in 2016. Previously, he had served as president of France in 2007-2012.
Two months after leaving office, French police raided his home investigating accusations of illegal campaign funding. He was charged with corruption in two cases, one being bribe money in cash guised as donations from Libyan leader Mu'ammar al-Gaddafi during the 2007 French elections.
In July 2014, he was held in police custody for 15 hours and was later convinced of corruption in two separate trials starting November 2020. The first resulted in a sentence of three years (two suspended and one in prison).
For the second conviction, he received a one-year sentence which allowed him to serve under home confinement while wearing an electronic bracelet.
Zimbabwe's first president Canaan Banana (1980-1987) was accused, 10 years after leaving office, of being a homosexual. South African President Nelson Mandela convinced him to stand trial, where he was convicted of 11 accounts sodomy, serving six months in prison. He was then released and died of cancer in 2003.
Rwanda's third president Pasteur Bizimungu held office from 1994 until 2000. One year after leaving office, he was arrested — originally for political reasons — and then charged with three crimes, one of which was embezzlement during his years in office.
In June 2004, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison; five for forming a militia, five for inciting violence, and five for embezzlement. He was pardoned and released in April 2007.
Togo's former premier Eugene Koffi Aboboli (1999-2000) was tried in absentia on charges of embezzling 800 million CFA in a construction project scandal while serving as prime minister in 1999.
Niger's ex-prime minister Hama Amadou was voted out of office on corruption charges in 2007. An investigation was opened into his era as premier, which led to his arrest.
He then became president of Niger's National Assembly but fled the country in August 2014, on charges of child trafficking. A court sentenced him to one year in prison, which he never served since he had by then settled in France.
Sayyid Ahmed Abdullah Mohammad Sambi was elected president of Comoros in 2006. His term ended in 2011 and seven years later, he was brought to trial on corruption charges, along with embezzlement of public funds and forgery of Comoros passports. He was jailed and on 28 November 2022 and sentenced to life in prison.
Ahmad Ouyahia served as a four-time premier of his country from 1995 to 2019. He was arrested on crimes of corruption in the tourism sector in June 2019 and sentenced to 19 years in jail.
Cote d'Ivoire's premier Guillaume Kigbafori Soro held office from April 2007 to March 2012. He then became president of his country's National Assembly until stepping down in February 2019 to run for presidential elections in October 2020. That April, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison on the charges of money laundering and embezzlement of public funds.
Mauritania's eighth president Mohammad Ould Abdul Aziz held office for 10 years, from 2009-2019. He also served as chairman of the African Union in 2014-2015. In March 2021, a Mauritanian court charged him, along with 10 associates (including his son-in-law) of gross corruption.
He was first placed under house arrest, and then transferred to prison after failing to cooperate with the police. He has since been moved into hospital, due to deteriorating health, claiming that the corruption charges against him were purely political.
Similar charges were brought against Mauritanian prime minister Yahya Ould Hademine who held office from August 2014 to October 2018. In 2021, he was jailed for corruption.
Jacob Zuma was a famous anti-apartheid activist who served as the fourth president of South Africa from 2009 to 2018. In 2014, he was accused of misuse of public office and a constitutional court ruled for his impeachment.
In July 2021, he was jailed for refusing to cooperate with the South African justice and showing contempt for its court. Sixteen criminal charges were brought against him, 12 fraud, two corruption, one for racketeering and one for money laundering.
On 29 June 2021, the Constitutional Court sentenced him to 15 months imprisonment. He was arrested on 7 July and had him released on medical parole on 15 September 2021.
Japan's former prime minister Kakuei Tanaka had led his country from 1972 to 1974. He was also one of the most influential members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
In 1976 he was involved in a bribery scandal that led to his arrest and trial. He was found guilty by two lower courts, but the case remained open before the Supreme Court until his death in December 1993.
After leading a successful coup, General Hussein Mohammad Ershad came to power in 1982, imposing martial law and suspending the constitution. He declared himself president in 1983 and served until forced to resign following a pro-democracy uprising in 1990.
He was subsequently arrested on corruption charges in November 2000 and released on bail on 9 April 2001 after serving just four months. He returned to politics until his death in 2019.
Necmettin Erbakan is now most remembered as ideological mentor to Turkey's current president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Before that he was prime minister of Turkey from 1996 to 1997, until forced to step down by the Turkish military.
His Welfare Party was banned on accounts of promoting Islamic fundamentalism and he was barred from taking part in Turkish politics. He was put on trial on charges of using forged documents to prevent the return of treasury grants in the amount of one trillion old Turkish lira.
Known as the longest serving president of Indonesia, Suharto was an army officer-turned politician who led the country from 1967 until his own resignation following nationwide unrest in 1998.
He retired to his family home near Jakarta and rarely appeared in public. On 29 May 2000 he was placed under house arrest as Indonesian authorities began investigation corruption under his three-decade presidency.
In July he was accused of embezzling $571 million worth of government donations, which were diverted to one of the foundations controlled by him and used to bankroll his family. That September, court-appointed doctors said he couldn't stand trial because of his age and medical condition.
On 26 March 2008, a civil court judge acquitted Suharto of corruption but ordered his charitable foundation, Supersemar, to pay $110 million. His son was sentenced to 15 years in jail for the killing of a judge (only to be parolled in 2006) while the president's half-brother was tried for corruption and sentenced to four years in jail (subsequently altered to two years).
Joseph Ejercito Estrada was an actor-turned politician who served as the thirteenth president of the Philippines from 1992 to 1998. In 2001, he became the first president in Asia to be formally impeached, on accusations of accepting bribe money and pocketing funds from the tobacco farmers marketing cooperative.
He stood a public trial transmitted on radio and television, and a 2004 Global Transparency Report named him as the tenth most corrupt leaders in the world, claiming that he had amassed anywhere between $78-80 million.
General Khin Nyunt was a Burmese officer and intelligence chief who became his country's prime minister from August 2003 to October 2004. Immediately after his resignation — reportedly on health grounds — he was put under house arrest on corruption charges.
He was tried by a special tribunal in July 2005 and sentenced to 44 years in jail. His sons were sentenced to 51 and 68 years respectively. The ex-premier is now under house arrest, suffering from Alzheimer's.