The popular English folktale of Robin Hood and his merry men is popular with school children the world over. Here was a man and a small band of friends who had made Sherwood Forest their home, from where they would mount raids around Nottinghamshire in ancient England and rob rich people. This medieval outlaw was one of the most wanted men on the local sheriff’s list, but a hero and saviour to the local population.
Robin Hood was a thief with a difference: he robbed from the rich to give to the poor.
Modern day Robin Hoods have completely changed the script. They rob from the poor to line their own pockets. They are the ‘Robbing Hoods’.
Thousands of kilometres away from the English coast, professionals from more than a hundred countries are meeting in Bali, Indonesia, under the auspices of a UN anti-corruption conference.
They are trying to chart out a course on how to recover billions of dollars spirited away by corrupt leaders. The irony of the meeting is that it opened on the same day one of its main targets, former Indonesian president Suharto, was laid to rest in Java.
It is estimated by the anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International, that Suharto and his family looted between $15-35 billion.
Closer at home, the former president of Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko allegedly gobbled up $ 5 billion, the same amount his Nigerian counterpart, Sani Abacha, also allegedly embezzled.
Though these two were the stars on the African plunder index, their legacy has been embraced by thousands of corrupt leaders who prey on their miserable subjects.
Corruption has reached such alarming heights that the World Bank estimates proceeds from the vice and related criminal activities to be between $1 and 1.6 trillion annually.
Modern technology now makes it easier to track illegal proceeds, and paper trails to Swiss banks are no longer secretive enough.
Perhaps all hope of recovering the fruits of plunder is not lost at all.