By Sanjeev Sharma
New Delhi, Dec 28 (IANS) Former Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani is runner-up for the annual Person of the Year award for Corruption in 2021.
Belarusian President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko has been named 2021’s Person of the Year by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) in recognition of all he has done to advance organised criminal activity and corruption, a statement said.
“Ghani certainly deserves an award, too. He was breathtaking in both corruption and gross incompetence. He deserted his people, leaving them to misery and death so he could live among the corrupt former state officials in the moral cesspool that is the UAE,” said OCCRP.
“It was a banner year for corruption, but Lukashenko stood out from the crowd,” said Drew Sullivan, a co-founder of OCCRP who served as a judge on the panel.
The other finalists include Syrian dictator Bashar Hafez al-Assad, Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan, and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.
Assad led Syria into a destructive civil war and has stolen hundreds of millions of dollars while clinging to power, as per OCCRP.
Erdogan has overseen a corrupt government that laundered Chinese funds for Iranian oil using state-owned banks, it said.
Kurz was the leader of Austrian People’s Party (OVP), who, along with nine other politicians and newspaper persons, was accused of embezzlement and bribery.
OCCRP said Lukashenko enjoys unlimited power at home and sniffs at international opprobrium. Indeed, it was EU sanctions against his country that prompted his retaliation via refugees, it said.
He seems equally unbothered by the suffering of his own citizens and desperate migrants, including children, shivering, hungry and barred from settling in Belarus, the statement said.
Over the past year, Lukashenko has generated headlines for channeling state money to a series of oligarchs close to the Lukashenko family, intercepting a Ryanair passenger plane carrying a Belarusian dissident and forcing it to land in Minsk, in violation of international laws on aviation, manufacturing a border crisis with the European Union by luring thousands of refugees to the borders of the bloc and promulgating misinformation and fake cures for Covid, OCCRP said.
(Sanjeev Sharma can be reached at Sanjeev.firstname.lastname@example.org)