Are these five men the biggest liars of all time?

Chris Parsons

To mark this year World's Biggest Liar competition in Cumbria, where competitors have five minutes to tell the biggest and most convincing tall tales, Yahoo! News looks back at five of the biggest fibbers in history.


In 1972, a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington's Watergate hotel complex led to one of the biggest scandals in U.S. political history.

When the FBI found evidence that connected cash stolen in the raid to a fundraising group for the re-election of Richard Nixon, the America's 37th President faced some very difficult questions.

As the scandal unfolded over the next year, it emerged that aides close to Nixon had given the orders to the burglars who broke into the Democrat HQ, possibly with the intention of planting wire taps inside the building.

Amid increased suspicion that he knew of or even approved the break-in, Nixon initially denied any connection to the scandal.

His famous declaration of, "I'm not a crook" to the media in November 1973 has since gone down as one of the most iconic Presidential moments in history.

However, after White House conversations on the matter were recorded, the scandal ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Taped conversations implicated President Nixon in the cover-up of the scandal, and as impeachment proceedings began, Nixon resigned from office in August 1974.

He remains the only U.S. President to resign from office thanks to a porky which left a lasting scar on the face of U.S. politics.

[Read more: Are your children’s secrets and lies normal?]


Former businessman and financier Madoff, 74, engineered one of the biggest frauds in U.S. history by conning thousands of investors out of billions of dollars.

In running a lucrative 'Ponzi Scheme', the New York stockbroker conned around $50bn out of investors by pretending to invest their money, when in reality the cash was being used to pay out returns to other investors.

In 2008, Madoff confessed that his investment firm was in fact 'one big lie' - a year later he admitted 11 federal felonies in court and was jailed for 150 years.

He said the Ponzi Scheme began in the 1990s, but investigators looking into the fraud believe it may have gone back as far as the 1970s.


Arguably one of the greatest conmen of the 20th century, Abagnale's antics as a confidence trickster in the 1960s inspired a Hollywood movie and saw him recruited by the U.S. federal government.

Beginning when he was merely a teenager, Abagnale assumed no fewer than eight separate high-profile fake identities, including an airline pilot, doctor, lawyer, college professor and pediatrician.

He also cashed $2.5m in fraudulent cheques in every U.S. state and 26 foreign countries before he was seized by French police in 1969.

He was jailed for five years aged 21, but after serving his sentence, was released on the condition he would help the U.S. government. Abagnale, 64, now works as a security consultant.


A less recognisable name on the list of the greatest ever fibbers, MacGregor perpetrated one of the major fraud scandals of the 1800s.

His deception - the Poyais Fraud - was arguably the most audacious and imaginative of anyone on the list, as it involved creating a fictional country in Central America.

MacGregor served in the British army and was involved in various operations in the Americas.
During his travels, he visited the coastal areas of present-day Honduras and Belize.

MacGregor claimed to have received a land grant from a local native leader, and upon his return to London, announced the new nation of the Republic of Poyais.

MacGregor created a flag, a coat of arms, currency and other trappings of a sovereign nation and then proceeded to sell off land to investors and settlers in the London markets.

He also issued sovereign debt backed by the promise of this new nation, and induced settlers with glowing accounts of the capital city and the fertility of the soil.

The first group of settlers arrived in Poyais in 1823, and found nothing except dense jungle and abandoned wood shacks.

Three other shiploads of settlers arrived over the next few years and found a similar situation.
Disease and hunger soon worked through the settlers and almost 200 colonists died.


A confidence trickster and impostor in a similar vein to Frank Abagnale, the 45-year-old Frenchman scammed the affluent by posing as a French heir to the Rockerfeller fortune.

Rocancourt, who listed Jean-Claude Van Damme, Naomi Campbell and Mickey Rourke among his friends, used at least a dozen aliases and persuaded the rich and powerful to invest in his schemes.

His first major con involved faking the deeds to a Paris property he didn't own, before selling it on for $1.4m.

He claims to have made $40m in his lifetime, during which he also pretended to be an ex-boxing champion, movie producer and venture capitalist.

After twice jumping bail following arrests, Rocancourt was extradited to New York and charged with theft, perjury, bribery, among other charges, was fined $9m and jailed for five years.

Having 'found God' in prison, born-again Christian Rocancourt insists he has learned from his mistakes and is currently in talks to make a Hollywood movie of his biography ‘I, Christophe Rocancourt: Orphan, Playboy and Convict.’

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