Corruption penetrates political, judicial, and economic systems across the globe; but which countries are the worst culprits?

In the Western world, investigative journalists or whistle-blowers often reveal corrupt conduct, but exposure and subsequent punitive measures for such conduct in many other countries is practically non-existent.

Transparency International conducts an annual survey quantifying and assessing corruption worldwide, giving 176 nations each a score out of 100.

The watchdog concluded that in 2016 more countries declined in the index, attributing this result to the widening gap between rich and poor.


Ranking worst in Transparency International’s league table, the nation is terrorised by the al-Shabaab movement and functions under an ineffective Transitional National Government (TFG) specialising in looting foreign aid.

corrupt countries

‘The scale of the TFG’s financial haemorrhaging is so immense that the term ‘corruption’ seems barely adequate’, says UN monitor Matt Bryden.

North Korea

Ranked second to Somalia, the secretive nation of North Korea breeds government officials exploiting citizens by collecting bribes for almost anything.

Whether a person is running a market stall or moving house, money is constantly demanded by those in power.


US troops will be pulled from Afghanistan next year, leaving a government that has made little attempt to control corruption.

corrupt countries

With major contractors throughout the nation funnelling US cash to the Taliban, there seems little hope that the country will budge from its position as fourth worst in the league table next year.


Iraq is listed as the eighth most corrupt country worldwide; the head of Iraqi parliament describes ‘corruption mafias that seem to spread through the establishment like an octopus’.

Although the government may look exemplary when compared with the reign of Suddam Hussein, Iraq’s new leaders are widely slated for corruption which deprives citizens of basic needs.

Other corrupt nations in the bottom ten this year include Venezuela, Haiti, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Myanmar.

Denmark and New Zealand

At the other end of the spectrum are Denmark and New Zealand – these nations jointly came out on top in the league table.

most corrupt countries

Britain, Luxembourg and Germany

Whilst Britain maintained joint tenth position with Luxembourg and Germany, the UK executive director of Transparency International, Robert Barrington, has warned that Britain needs to ‘follow through’ on promises to publish an anti-corruption strategy.

The strategy was supposed to be revealed by the end of 2016 and Mr Barrington states that ‘if weak or further delayed, the UK will risk dropping out of the top 10’.

Mr Barrington continues: ‘The uncertainty posed by Brexit has the potential to encourage a ‘business at any cost’ trade strategy; such an approach would be a disaster for the UK’s long-term reputation as a leading anti-corruption player.’

Whether stemming from a lack of centralised power, or finding its roots in specific power structures, corruption plays a major role in nurturing poverty and stunting economic systems; the sliding scale developed by Transparency International illustrates how no country is entirely clean.

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi: ‘Corruption and hypocrisy ought not to be inevitable products of democracy, as they undoubtedly are today.’