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By Eamon Lahiri
It's been said that the meek shall inherit the earth, but we're not exactly sure when that's supposed to happen. History has painted a much different picture -- one where the rich and powerful basically own everything and do whatever they want. OK, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but as these people demonstrate, fear of repercussions while involved in brazen bribery isn't exactly on their list of things to worry about.
Indian MPs Sell Their Votes In Parliament
In 1993, the Indian Parliament saw a no-confidence motion raised against the ruling party. The motion narrowly failed, and as it turned out, it was largely because a number of MPs from one of the opposition parties, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, voted against the motion in exchange for some cold, hard cash.
They happily went to court when the matter was escalated, because they already knew that Indian law forbids Parliament members from being sued based on what they say or how they vote. In other words, it would be a non-trial, so they had nothing to fear. Of course, the law was originally written to promote the fearless expression of opinion, but was eventually misinterpreted and distorted way beyond its original intentions. But we guess manipulative misinterpretation and distortion of the law are pretty much the pillars on which politics stands.
"I noticed you have a bit of a cold. Here's some 'tissue' for you." *Wink*
Finding creative ways to accept bribes legally isn't exactly new political territory, but how the MPs reacted when caught adds an entirely new level of dickishness to this scenario. You see, the Income Tax department, miffed at the injustice of it all, decided to make the guilty MPs at least pay taxes on the money they received. This is important, because whether they realized it or not, this would have actually legitimized bribery as actual income.
However, the MPs decided to pay a visit to the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal almost immediately, and put on record their disgust at being asked to pay taxes on their hard-earned bribe money. If you've ever shied away from asking your boss for extra vacation days because of all that overtime you've put in, you might want to take a page out of these guys' bargaining books, because the Tribunal actually held in their favor. This created a sort of a Schrödinger's cat situation for the money in question, which was basically both a bribe and legitimate at the same time.
Eventually they were, in fact, ordered to pay taxes on the money, because come on.
House Speaker (Legally) Hands Out Tobacco Checks On The House Floor
One of the key points John Boehner brought up in his bid to become Chairman of the Republican House Conference was his desire to put his foot down on cronyism and lobbying. A fine vision that came under the limelight months after his election, when a bill was introduced to abolish a yearly giveaway of $49 million in tax money to tobacco companies and lifting the subsidy on tobacco.
With the vote just around the corner, Boehner left his chair while in session and openly walked around the floor handing out checks issued by tobacco companies to his colleagues. Of course, he was able to pull it off with a perfectly clear conscience, because hey, it's not like he was doing anything illegal. He was, in his own words, doing whatever he was doing "at the place where the members meet," and simply "assisting his lobbyist friends."
Never trust a man who has a bow-tie guy in his posse.
And he was right. The floor of the House is, after all, a place where anything goes as long as it's in the open. Which leaves precious little distinction between the House and Fight Club, including the fact that you don't talk about either.
An older, wiser Boehner owned up to his mistake years later, when he admitted it probably wasn't the greatest idea: "I think ... if my memory serves me correctly ... I think it was a tobacco check. Yes." And when asked what he thought about that event given the benefit of hindsight, he replied, "We gotta stop this. This is just not something that will happen." We at least commend his ability to stretch his memory to its limits, if not his moral compass.
Judges In Ukraine Do Whatever They Want
Judiciary members are often given certain legal immunities to protect esteemed judges from being prosecuted for doing their jobs. Unfortunately, some countries have stretched that whole immunity concept far enough to mean that judges are to have full, complete protection from the law, even if they fill their lives and jobs with blatant corruption. Hey, don't judge. Um ... unless you are one.
In Ukraine, for example, judges can do pretty much whatever the hell they want. And one judge did precisely that, when after being caught accepting a bribe, he just pulled out his gun and started shooting at the people who came to investigate. That ... seems like an overreaction, especially since his judicial immunity meant he probably could've just accepted the bribe at a press conference on national TV. That assumption was affirmed by the fact that he wasn't punished for trying to shoot people.
Another judge, Mykola Chaus, with a long record of corruption, was also caught in the act while receiving roughly $150,000 in bribes in 2016, which at this point makes us wonder if detectives in Ukraine work the same way birdwatchers do: find the corrupt judge in the wild, make note of it, then just move on to the next one.
But what was particularly hilarious about Chaus's case was the unsafe and not-hidden location he chose to hide his ill-gotten gains. Instead of opting for a safe deposit box, foreign bank account or even a fireproof safe, he decided on a super classy glass jar. Now, we're no experts on illicit fund storage, but we're pretty confident something less obvious, less fragile, and definitely not openable by some random five-year-old would be a safer bet.
F1 Mogul Gets Put On Trial For Bribing A Banker, And Literally Buys His Freedom
Bernie Ecclestone is one of the richest people in the United Kingdom and the former CEO of the Formula One Group, which is basically NASCAR for rich people. Or at least richer people.
In 2014, he faced not only the prospect of losing his F1 empire, but potentially 10 years of his life to jail as he was put on trial for allegedly bribing a German banker with $44 million to aid in the sale of a stake in F1. The offer was made to a company Ecclestone favored, through backdoor, not-exactly-legal means. We say "allegedly," but the banker had already spent eight years in prison for his part in the deal. And clearly, if there was a receiver, there had to be a donor.
Eventually, Ecclestone admitted to paying the money. It wasn't because of some sappy change of heart or a desire to do the right thing, mind you, but rather a bizarre and vague loophole in German law that allows a defendant to pay his way out of a sticky situation. Well, actually it's probably not a loophole -- it's more of an intentionally-placed crutch for the rich and privileged.
Pictured: Rich and privileged.
The law, when paraphrased in terms that make it sound less blatant, states that should the gravity of the wrongdoing not be significant, the court has the power to give the defendant a clean chit in exchange for monetary compensation. It's meant to fast-track convoluted or small-scale cases. And although Ecclestone's case was neither convoluted nor small-scale, having been in the racing business since the end of World War II, it did give him an in-depth understanding of the whole fast-track part of it.
The F1 Supremo promptly bought a trial termination for his charges of bribery with what amounted to another, albeit legalized, bribe of $100 million. Which sounds like a lot, but when you're worth several billion ... eh; whatever.
Gov. Scott Walker Announces Suspicious Tax "Breaks" Right Before Elections
Politicians are known the world over for failing to deliver on pre-election promises. It's a perception that has only become more established with time, until one man made up his mind to change that image. Enter Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
Not only did Walker deliver on his pre-election promise, he went a step further and did it before the the next election. Just a week before, in fact. Leading up to this year's election, Walker passed a proposal to allow tax breaks to 671,000 families with children. Which is a good thing, because hard-working parents could use a little extra cash in their pockets.
The thing is, this tax break looked a little suspicious, given how it was passed after the actual tax season and how it wasn't even a part of the normal tax rebate process. The proposal allowed for families to register on a website and straight up claim a $100 refund per child, in what was obvious to many as a clear and blatant case of legitimized campaign bribery. And there was the whole thing with tax experts saying, "OK guys, this is weird."
"Excellent question. Before I answer it, allow me to reward you with $100."
He also managed to pass a proposal to declare a sales tax holiday for the first five days of August on certain items under $100, promoted as a way to help parents curb the cost of back-to-school shopping. "Coincidentally," it was to take effect just a week ahead of the August 14 primary.
Again, we're not saying a surplus of tax dollars going back to the people is a bad thing. But if you're a politician who's vocally concerned about your chances of reelection, maybe stick to back alley deals with lobbyists instead of public stunts that reek of desperation.
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