Last week, FP ran down the worst behavior from the sons of world leaders. Now, it's the ladies' turn.
- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College., James DownieJames Downie is an editorial researcher at FP.
Dad: Uzbek President Islam Karimov
Bad behavior: Karimova is known in Europe as a jet-setting socialite and philanthropist and has been spotted at events with Sharon Stone, Elton John and, reportedly, former U.S. President Bill Clinton. But back home, Karimova is likely being groomed as successor to her brutal dictator father and has used his influence to amass her own formidable financial holdings.
The consequences of crossing Karimova became clear in 2001 when she divorced her husband, an Afghan-American businessman with extensive holdings in Uzbekistan, and took their children out of the United States in violation of a court order. The unfortunate ex-husband’s Coca-Cola bottling factory in Uzbekistan was promptly shut down, three of his relatives were imprisoned, and 24 were deported at gunpoint to Afghanistan. In 2006, Karimova, whose business interests include most of Uzbekistan’s tea industry, reportedly sent hooded men with machine guns to shut down a rival company and liquidate their holdings.
In recent years, Karimova has been focusing on her budding music career. A music video she recorded under the name GooGooSha, her father’s pet name for her, was in near-constant rotation on Uzbek MTV in 2006.
Dad: Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein
Bad behavior: It’s an understatement to say that Raghad Hussein and her father have had their ups and downs. In 1995, her husband Hussein Kamel, one of Saddam’s top ministers, defected, and the couple fled to Jordan. Saddam coaxed them into returning in 1996, then promptly forced them to divorce and had Kamel executed. Raghad doesn’t seem to bear a grudge though, saying years later that, “all families have misunderstandings.”
After fleeing back to Jordan after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Hussein was taken in by the royal family of Jordan. Unlike the thousands of Iraqi exiles who live in desperation throughout the Middle East, the Jordanians have provided Hussein with a deluxe apartment and servants and paid for her clothing, jewelry, and even cosmetic surgery. Hussein set a new standard for gall by writing to then U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft requesting that jewels from Saddam’s palace and the cash found on her father when he was arrested be returned to her.
In 2007, Iraq’s interior ministry charged Ms. Hussein with financing Sunni insurgents, an offense punishable by death. She has been placed on an Interpol red list, but the Jordanian government has denied requests to extradite her. She last made a public appearance in Yemen in 2006, shortly after her father’s execution, where she praised him as a loving father and a hero to Arabs.
Dad: Late Burmese prime minister and president Ne Win
Bad behavior: Before the current military junta took power in 1988, Burma was ruled by prime minister and later president Ne Win, who ruled the country as a one-party Marxist dictatorship from 1962 to 1988. As Win (already 52 when he began his rule) grew older, he began to rely more and more on Sandar, his favorite daughter, to help run things. Throughout the 1980s, Sandar’s power grew as she assumed more and more responsibilities for the rapidly failing state. She controlled party officials’ access to her father, and then oversaw the appointment of Col. Khin Nyhut (a future prime minister under the junta) as chief of intelligence, providing her with even more control over the regime.
When her father stepped down in 1988, Sandar Win played a key role in suppressing the following pro-democracy movement that was led by Aung Sun Suu Kyi. After the military junta took over the country, Win preserved her father’s power behind the scenes during the 1990s, while she used her connections to continue enriching her family’s business ventures. Some saw Sandar as Aung Sun Suu Kyi’s greatest rival if the junta fell. Then, at the beginning of this decade, her husband and their three sons were arrested for plotting to overthrow the junta. Win was not implicated directly, despite many considering her the brains behind the plot, but her family’s influence was finally dead. Like her opponent Aung Sun Suu Kyi, she was placed under house arrest. Reports indicate she was finally released in December.
Dad: Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra
Bad behavior: When Pinthongta Shinawatra became the richest stockholder in Thailand in 2004, few observers were surprised. Before Thaksin was deposed in a military coup in 2006, his family benefited tremendously from the rampant nepotism during his five-year term as prime minster, with his own children netting millions. Along with her brother Pangthongtae, she made a large profit by buying 329.2 million shares in a Thai communications company for 1 baht each from one of the family’s offshore holding company, and selling them for almost 50 times their value to a Singaporean company. The ensuing transaction netted $464 million, and Pinthongta’s father kept the transaction hidden from Thai tax officials.
Since her father lost the premiership, Pinthongta has been busy protecting both her father’s record and her own funds. A court in Thailand ordered her and her brother in 2007 to pay $293.6 million in taxes for the stock transaction, and just this February a court upheld the Thai state’s decision to freeze more than $350 million of the pair’s assets. Meanwhile, she refused to testify against her parents in their own tax-evasion case, and she continues to defend her father’s record in public, all while running the family’s still-intact property business. And with substantial portions of her fortune, as well as the rest of the family’s, likely hidden in overseas accounts, Thai authorities will have a hard time halting her life of luxury.
Dad: Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo
Bad behavior: Her father may be notorious for political corruption, but daughter Iyabo started out promisingly enough, earning graduate degrees in epidemiology from UC-Davis, Cornell, and Wake Forest and publishing a number of papers in U.S. medical journals. She seemed headed for a distinguished career in medical research until she returned to Nigeria in 2004, fleeing her estranged husband with their U.S.-born son. The father has filed kidnapping charges against her in a U.S. court, which are still pending. Obasanjo also reportedly owes her ex-husband $35,000 in unpaid child support and is on an Interpol watch list.
After coming home, she decided to go into the family business: abuse of power and graft. After serving as health commissioner in her father’s government, Obasanjo was elected to the Nigerian Senate in 2006, where she proceeded to take full advantage of the office. In 2006, Obasanjo reportedly accepted thousands of dollars in bribes, including a Toyota Land Cruiser, from an Austrian company in exchange for using her connections to help it bid on energy contracts with her father’s government. She is also accused of withdrawing $85,000 from Nigeria’s meager health budget for personal use. Obasanjo has described the accusations as “blackmail.”