7. Eli Boggs
An American pirate who operated in Hong Kong, Eli Boggs single-handedly managed to kick off one of the largest corruption scandals of the era. By all accounts, those hands were unlikely ones for a pirate. He’s specifically said to have had “lily-white hands,” boyish looks, and a definitely feminine air about him. Supposedly as ruthless as he was pretty, he was eventually captured and put on trial for piracy and murder.
At his trial, Boggs claimed that he had been set up by Wong Ma-Chow, an infamous gangster. He said that it had all been done under the oversight of one of the gangster’s known associates, Daniel Richard Francis Caldwell, the British secretary for Chinese affairs throughout the 1850s. Caldwell, who had previously been a part of a trading and merchant family, was reported to have gained all his knowledge about Chinese culture and language through his various affairs with an indeterminate number of women. He was soon assistant commissioner of police, and it wasn’t long after that he became the registrar general. During his time as a trader, though, he had established a network of rather shady informants who helped him crack down on piracy and control the brothels and prostitution that were rampant in the area.
When Boggs took the stand at his own trial, he very eloquently pointed the finger at Caldwell in a two-hour speech that opened the door to a whole series of accusations which became known as the Caldwell Affair. Accusations kept piling on, including that he not only was involved in the licensing of brothels, but that he owned one as well. He was accused of being a pirate himself, all while carrying on his anti-pirate activities.
The whole thing spiraled out of control and cemented Hong Kong’s reputation as a hotbed of corruption and vice. Meanwhile, Boggs’s insistence that he was only a part of the huge conspiracy, along with a lack of evidence against him and no eyewitnesses who could testify that they’d actually seen him shoot anyone, succeeded in getting him found guilty of piracy but not of murder. It earned him nothing more than a deportation from Hong Kong.