10 Times Politicians and World Leaders Got Arrested

10 Times Politicians and World Leaders Got Arrested
VOICE OVER: Peter DeGiglio WRITTEN BY: Don Ekama
These world leaders couldn't escape the long arm of the law. For this list, we'll be looking at the most infamous moments in which Presidents or Prime Ministers of the world were arrested and, in certain cases, indicted on criminal charges. Our countdown includes Benjamin Netanyahu, Donald Trump, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and more!

Top 10 Times Politicians/World Leaders Got Arrested

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Times Politicians/World Leaders Got Arrested.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the most infamous moments in which Presidents or Prime Ministers of the world were arrested and, in certain cases, indicted on criminal charges.

Should world leaders be above the law? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

#10: Benjamin Netanyahu

With more than 15 years in office, Benjamin Netanyahu ranks as the longest-serving Prime Minister in Israeli history. During his fourth term in office, he became the first sitting leader of the country to be indicted on criminal charges. These charges stemmed from three separate cases. Case 1000, in which Netanyahu was accused of receiving gifts, including expensive cigars and champagne, from wealthy businessmen in exchange for political favors. And Cases 2000 and 4000, in which he is alleged to have made illicit deals with certain media publications in exchange for positive news coverage of him and his family. Netanyahu was officially indicted in January 2020 and his criminal trial began in May, the same month he was re-elected to a fifth term.

#9: Imran Khan

In 2018, former cricketer and political party leader Imran Khan was appointed as the Prime Minister of Pakistan after his party won the majority in the National Assembly. Although a relatively popular leader, Khan was ousted from the seat after he lost a vote of no confidence in 2022. Following his removal, Khan was investigated on corruption charges. Authorities alleged that he had received a bribe worth millions of dollars through the Al-Qadir Trust, which he owns with his wife. In May 2023, while he was at the Islamabad High Court, Khan was arrested by security agents in a dramatic fashion. The arrest, which sparked violent nationwide protests, was ultimately deemed illegal by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

#8: Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

After serving as First Lady of Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was elected President from 2007-2015, before returning as Vice President in 2019. After her two terms in office, Fernández de Kirchner faced numerous criminal charges, including fraud, illicit association and high treason. Although most of these were dismissed, she was tried on the fraud charges and ultimately found guilty by a three-judge panel. She was sentenced to six years in prison and banned from ever holding public office. However, Fernández de Kirchner, who survived an assassination attempt in 2022, continued to walk free as her position as Vice President granted her legal immunity. Her subsequent appeal of the guilty verdict is expected to advance to the Supreme Court.

#7: Najib Razak

Born to a former Prime Minister, Najib Razak began his political career at the age of 23, following his father’s death. Over the next four decades, he rose to the highest office himself, becoming one of the most powerful individuals in Malaysia. Razak’s day of reckoning came in 2015 after The Wall Street Journal released an article that linked him to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal. He was alleged to have funneled about $700 million from the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund into his own personal bank accounts. After his party lost the 2018 general elections, Razak was arrested by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission on multiple criminal charges. He was convicted on all counts and handed a 12-year prison sentence.

#6: Jacob Zuma

South Africa
A former close associate of Nelson Mandela, Jacob Zuma served as the President of South Africa from 2009 to 2018. However, the case for which he faced criminal charges preceded his time in office. Zuma was implicated in the infamous 1999 Arms Deal, and after dodging legal proceedings for years, he was charged with fraud, money laundering and racketeering in 2018. The indictment against Zuma accused him of receiving millions of rands in bribes from French arms company Thales, in exchange for a contract in the deal. Zuma has maintained his innocence in the case, arguing that the charges against him are politically motivated. After failing to appear before a court in 2021, he was arrested and sentenced to 15 months in prison.

#5: Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva

The first Brazilian President to win a third term, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva rose from a corruption scandal to an unprecedented victory in the 2022 elections. After his first two terms ended in 2010, Lula da Silva was implicated in Operation Car Wash. The lengthy criminal investigation involved several high-ranking Brazilian officials and the state-owned oil company Petrobras. It was alleged that Lula da Silva had received nearly a million dollars’ worth of bribes from a construction company in exchange for government contracts. He was found guilty of corruption and money laundering, and sentenced to 12 years in prison. In 2021, his conviction was annulled by the Supreme Court after it concluded that the lower court that tried him lacked jurisdiction.

#4: Silvio Berlusconi

During his time as Italy’s longest serving post-war Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi battled numerous criminal charges. From bribery to embezzlement, tax fraud, witness tampering and money laundering, Berlusconi’s political career was riddled with several legal proceedings. Many of these charges ended up getting dismissed, sometimes due to specific laws that were altered by Berlusconi’s own government. His first definitive conviction came in the case involving his company, Mediaset. Berlusconi was accused of tax fraud related to the illicit acquisition of movie rights. In 2012, he was sentenced to four years in prison, but only served one year of community service due to his old age and Italy’s amnesty law. He died in June of 2023, still a serving Senator.

#3: Donald Trump

In 2018, during his first term as President, reports surfaced accusing Donald Trump of making hush money payments to adult entertainer Stormy Daniels. These payments were reportedly made during his presidential campaign to prevent Daniels from coming forward with tales of their alleged fling. In March 2023, just a few months after entering the 2024 presidential race, Trump was indicted on 34 criminal counts. He was arrested and pleaded not guilty to all counts. Fast forward a few months and Trump was arraigned yet again, this time for his alleged mishandling of classified documents after his first term. He also pleaded not guilty in this case, becoming the first former U.S. president to be brought up on federal charges.

#2: Park Geun-hye

South Korea
By the time she was elected as the first female President of South Korea in 2013, Park Geun-hye was no stranger to executive power. Her father, Park Chung-hee, ruled the country until his assassination in 1979. Unlike her dad, Park was removed from office in 2017 after the Constitutional Court of Korea upheld her impeachment by the National Assembly over corruption allegations. Soon after, she was arrested and indicted on criminal charges, including bribery, abuse of power and leaking of government secrets. The prosecution claimed that she had been unduly influenced by her confidante Choi Soon-sil to essentially extort money from multiple businesses. Park was ultimately sentenced to 20 years in prison, but in 2021, she received a pardon from then-President Moon Jae-in.

#1: Nicolas Sarkozy

Nicolas Sarkozy served one term as President of France between 2007 and 2012. Sarkozy lost his re-election bid and was accused of illegal campaign funding afterwards. While investigation was ongoing, he reportedly tried to bribe a high-ranking judge in exchange for information about the case. In 2014, he was arrested and questioned by law enforcement over the bribery allegations. This resulted in a criminal trial where Sarkozy was found guilty of corruption and influence peddling. The former president faced a second trial in 2021, in relation to the allegations of illegal campaign funding. He was again found guilty in this trial and received a one-year sentence, with the option of serving his time under house arrest.