Most government scandals are actually quite dull — there’s only so worked up people can get over misfiled expense reports or kickbacks from donut suppliers. But every so often a major politician gets caught up in a conspiracy so bizarre it would make Richard Nixon himself blush.
Conspiracy: Faked Orgy Photos (And Unsolved Murder) Used To Influence A French Election
In 1968, Alain Delon was the most famous actor in France, so it caused a media sensation when the mangled corpse of his bodyguard and close friend, Stevan Markovic, was found dumped in a Paris landfill. Before his death, Markovic had written mysteriously to his brother warning that if he died it would be the “fault” of Delon and a Corsican gangster named François Marcantoni, who had close links to the ruling party of President Charles de Gaulle.
Here’s where it gets crazy. The investigation revealed that Markovic had a sideline organizing orgies attended by some of France’s wealthiest and most influential people. Rumors began flying in the press that a regular participant was Claude Pompidou, the fashionista wife of Prime Minister Georges Pompidou, who had just split from de Gaulle and launched his own bid for the presidency. Then, a prominent lawyer’s car was reported stolen. When the police found and searched it, they discovered photos appeared to show Claude engaging in the orgies. The scandal quickly became the talk of France.
The woman in the photos actually wasn’t Claude, but a lookalike prostitute hired by police commissioner Lucien Aimé-Blanc, who claimed he had found her at the request of a buddy in the SDECE spy agency. Pompidou was elected president anyway after debunking the claim that his wife was in the pictures. He promptly purged the spy agency of rogue elements. The murder of Markovic has never been solved.
Conspiracy: Alabama Had To Declare Martial Law After The Attorney-General Had His Elected Successor Murdered
Phenix City, Alabama was arguably the most corrupt city in America, to the point that General Patton once threatened to flatten it with tanks. It was dominated by gambling and prostitution, while corrupt “Phenix City Machine” politicians were a powerful force in state government. Attorney-general Si Garrett was especially deeply involved in the graft. In 1954, a lawyer named Albert Patterson ran for attorney-general on a platform of cleaning up Phenix City. There was massive vote-rigging against him, but he still won the Democratic primary, virtually guaranteeing him a general election win. Or it would have, if he hadn’t been found with a bullet in his head shortly afterward.
In the ensuing uproar, Alabama’s governor had to declare martial law and send the National Guard to take control of Phenix City and arrest over 100 people. The investigation found that the murder had been ordered by attorney-general Garrett and carried out by district attorney Arch Ferrell and deputy sheriff Albert Fuller. Fuller was convicted while Ferrell was sensationally acquitted. Si Garrett avoided prosecution by fleeing to Texas, checking into a mental hospital, and having himself declared medically unfit to stand trial. Which was a bold move from a guy who was still the sitting attorney-general of Alabama.
Conspiracy: Bolivia’s President Secretly Gave Kickbacks To The Mother Of His Child…Except The Kid Never Existed In The First Place
Bolivia’s president Evo Morales was recently the center of a huge scandal when he was revealed to have conducted a secret affair with Gabriela Zapata, an executive with a Chinese engineering company. The Morales government subsequently awarded more than USD $500 million in government contracts to her firm. Morales admitted the affair, adding that they had even had a son who died as a baby in 2007. Zapata was arrested as part of an investigation into influence peddling. And then things got weird.
From prison, Zapata claimed that their child was alive and well, having been smuggled to the Bolivian city of Cochabamba and raised in secret. CNN Bolivia even interviewed the kid, who wore a mask over his face. Morales said he had no idea, adding that he was overjoyed to learn his son had lived, but demanding to know why the child had been hidden from him. When Zapata refused a DNA test, Morales got a court order, revealing that the child wasn’t related to either of them, but had been rented from a poor couple for $5,000.
It was further revealed that the Zapata-Morales baby had actually never existed in the first place. Zapata had faked a pregnancy, then told the Morales the baby had died during childbirth, presumably to gain emotional leverage over the president. When that was insufficient to avoid arrest, Zapara resurrected the kid. A court subsequently confirmed the “physical non-existence” of the child. As a result of the controversy, Zapata went to jail for influence-peddling, while Morales lost a key referendum.
Conspiracy: Belgium Was Rocked By A Wave Of Resignations And Suicides After A Government Minister Had A Deputy Prime Minister Machine-Gunned To Death
Andre Cools was leader of the Walloon Socialist Party and deputy prime minister of Belgium. Belgium has a reputation as a pretty dull, respectable country, which is why it was so shocking when Cools was riddled with submachine gun fire on the street in 1991. Even more shocking, the murder turned out to have been ordered by other high-ranking figures in the socialist party. The scandal caused a wave of resignations and suicides in Belgium’s government.
The ultimate mastermind was a government minister named Alain Van der Biest, who killed himself shortly after being arrested in 2002. Van der Biest most likely ordered the killing to cover up a scandal in which the Belgian government took massive bribes from the Augusta helicopter company in return for defense contracts. Cools was unhappy with his cut and seems to have threatened to blow the story wide open before he came down with a sudden case of lead poisoning. After his death, the conspirators tried to cover up the scandal by literally burning the helicopter bribe money, but the investigation eventually revealed the deal anyway.
A popular Belgian conspiracy theory claims that a number of other senior politicians were involved in the murder, but the case was officially closed after Van der Biest’s suicide.
Conspiracy: The Czech Prime Minister Allegedly Kidnapped His Own Son To Prevent Him Testifying
Current Czech prime minister Andrej Babis has faced major protests over an ongoing corruption scandal. But Babis has been fighting back, to the point that he’s been accused of kidnapping his own son to prevent him testifying about the corruption.
It all started back in the ‘90s, when somebody illegally used EU subsidies to spruce up a luxury resort Babis owned. When this came out in 2018, Babis insisted that, while he was the owner, the place was run by his son and he had no idea what went on there. Unfortunately his son, Andrej Jr., appeared to be mysteriously unreachable and couldn’t answer any questions about the scandal.
Andrej Jr. resurfaced in November, claiming that his father had ordered his kidnapping to cover up the theft. He claimed he had been taken against his will to the Crimea, then moved between various locations in Russia while the inquiry into the scandal was ongoing. The senior Babis responded by claiming his son was schizophrenic and that his daughter had depression (unclear why this was relevant, but he kept mentioning it). He added that nobody should listen to such an unstable figure, who had merely gone to Russian-occupied Crimea for psychiatric treatment, as one does. Babis survived a vote of no confidence sparked by the allegations in early 2019. The protests continue.
Conspiracy: Charles De Gaulle’s Private Militia Massacred A Cop’s Family
In 1958, Charles de Gaulle returned to power in France. It was a tense and violent time in French politics and de Gaulle ordered some of his old resistance comrades to form a private militia. Under the leadership of Interior Minister Roger Frey and advisor Jacques Foccart, this became the Service d’Action Civique (SAC), which guarded Gaullist politicians, attacked left-wing activists, and fought rival militant groups. The SAC recruited heavily among organized crime and members were involved in at least 200 violent crimes, many of which were hushed up by their political protectors.
Things came to a head in 1981, when the Gaullists finally lost the presidency to the socialists, costing the SAC their most powerful political protectors. That same year, an internal dispute in the Marseille SAC led to a strike team murdering police chief Pierre Massie, along with his wife and four children. The investigation revealed all sorts of dirty secrets and effectively ended the SAC as an organization.
Conspiracy: An Austrian Businessman Murdered Six People For The Insurance…And A Bunch Of Government Ministers Helped
Udo Proksch was the owner of Vienna’s famed Demel chocolatier, a renowned socialite, and a major donor to the ruling Socialist Democrat party. In 1977, he was strapped for cash, so he hired a small freighter to take some expensive nuclear plant equipment to Hong Kong. In reality, the cargo was a bunch of old scrap metal and a massive time bomb, which sunk the ship in the middle of the Indian Ocean, killing all six crew members.
His plan was to collect a $20 million payout, but the suspicious insurance company refused to pay. Instead, they hired a team of detectives and elite divers who eventually located the wreck and revealed the truth. Udo went on the run for years, but was eventually discovered working as a faith healer in the Philippines and arrested when he tried to return to Austria.
By this point the investigation had revealed his deep ties to the government and implicated a bunch of senior ministers in criminal activity. The Foreign Minister committed perjury by falsely claiming he had seen the (non-existent) nuclear equipment loaded on the ship, in a failed attempt to get Proksch off the hook. The Interior Minister ordered the police to drop all investigations into Proksch, then had to resign in disgrace after the order leaked out. And most scandalous of all, the Minister of Defense had apparently ordered the army to give Proksch the explosives used in the bomb. When the scandal broke, the same Minister of Defense was found with a bullet in his head in an apparent suicide.
Conspiracy: The Poisoning That Took Down One Of China’s Most Powerful Men
As one of 25 Politburo members, Bo Xilai was one of the most powerful and famous men in China, forming a glamorous power couple with his wife Gu Kailai. His rise seemed unstoppable, until a police chief stumbled into a US consulate disguised as a woman, claiming he was being persecuted for uncovering evidence that Gu had murdered British businessman Neil Heywood.
It turned out that the couple had been living a suspiciously opulent life. For example, Bo’s salary was a humble US$20,000 a year, but his son’s school tuition alone was twice that. The kid later moved on to Oxford, where he became known for hosting champagne parties and peeling around in a red Ferrari, not exactly well-known habits of people struggling by on 20k.
It turned out that Heywood had worked as a facilitator for the corrupt couple, who had bought a French villa in his name. When Gu decided to sell the villa, he demanded a cut, prompting her to murder him with rat poison.
Conspiracy: An Australian MP Was A Murderer Who Probably Threw Another MP Off A Cliff
On the surface, Thomas Ley was the perfect conservative politician, known as “Lemonade Ley” for his presbyterian temperance. After serving as Minister of Justice in New South Wales, he was elected to Australia’s federal parliament in 1925. But behind the scenes, Ley ran a number of fraudulent businesses and anyone who got in his way tended to wind up dead.
His opponent in one election claimed that Ley had tried to bribe him to drop out of the race, but vanished without a trace while on his way to demand an investigation. Another political opponent was the MP Hyman Goldstein, who suggested setting up a committee to investigate Ley. His body was found at the bottom of a cliff a short time later. Ley’s business partner also mysteriously vanished after they quarreled, while he’s also suspected in the murder of his mistress’s husband.
Under investigation in Australia, Ley fled to England, where he was arrested for torturing a man to death for supposedly sleeping with his girlfriend. He died in Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum in 1947.
Conspiracy: India’s Exam Scandal Involved 2,000 Arrests, 50 Suspicious Deaths, And A Cover-Up (But Nobody Can Agree Who Did It)
India’s Vyapam exam scandal rocked the nation. The basic outline is similar to the better-known US scandal — students and parents paying fixers to rig exams for them — albeit with a few refinements like the engine-bogie system, where a rich student paid a ringer to take the exam for him, then other students were charged smaller sums to sit near that guy and cheat off his paper. But the scale is staggering. Over 2,000 people were arrested in connection with the scam, including senior politicians.
Around 50 people implicated in the scandal have died under suspicious circumstances since the story broke. The deaths include the dean of a medical school (found burned to death on his lawn), his successor (supposedly overdosed in a cheap hotel room), the governor’s son (suddenly collapsed, cause of death unclear), and a journalist investigating the scandal (suddenly collapsed foaming at the mouth, cause of death unclear).
It’s also perfectly clear that there was a cover-up, but nobody can agree who did it. The police discovered an incriminating spreadsheet with the names of politicians involved in the scam. But the opposition Congress Party produced a whistleblower in the form of a police IT consultant who claimed the cops had doctored the spreadsheet to remove the names of senior government figures. The ruling BJP hit back, producing a forensic report “proving” their spreadsheet is the original. In other words, somebody doctored that spreadsheet, but nobody can agree whether the BJP or the Congress have the real one.