Photos: When rulers go bad: A peek inside 5 doomed dictators’ opulent lifestyles


By Sara Lessley, guest blogger

Well, what a surprise: Ukrainian strongman Viktor Yanukovich had a palace. A really, really nice country estate a few miles out of town. That thousands of previously banned average Ukrainians stampeded to check out after he, uh, left town in a big hurry in late February.

But then what? After the gawking and the gaping and the photo-taking, what will happen to the magnificent compound, its golden furnishings, exotic zoo, the 300-plus acres of land? Assuming these spoils weren’t exactly acquired on your basic Ukrainian presidential salary, shouldn’t the citizens -- who perhaps unwittingly underwrote this excess, or clearly didn’t get use of the siphoned state funds -- somehow benefit?

When a despot falls -- or flees to a friendlier neighboring land -- and his (or her) palatial holdings (or two or 10) are exposed, shouldn’t Casa Excess become a park? A museum, at least? Or have the belongings sold off in some effort to repay the purloined state treasury?

Because, of course, Yanukovich wasn’t a lone (rich) wolf. Think Saddam Hussein. Think Moammar Kadafi. Or Zine el Abidine ben Ali of Tunisia. Or if you go way back, Imelda Marcos, the former “shoe queen” of the Philippines. What about the stuff they looted in the name of power and privilege? Is anything ever returned to the people from these ill-gotten gains?


Well, it depends.

Sara Lessley is a freelance journalist and editing coach in Los Angeles.