Bernard Madoff may be the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.
The world's greatest scammer is 70 years old and facing up to 150 years in prison for his $50 billion swindle, but it could have been worse — much, much worse — if he'd committed his crimes in some other countries.
You literally have to hand it to the Saudis, whose strict application of Islamic Shariah law would leave Madoff missing more than his freedom.
"For stealing in Saudi Arabia they cut your hands off," said Rachel Ehrenfeld, director of the American Center for Democracy. "Whether the Shariah court would decide that he stole so much money that he gets a stoning is up to them, but the general penalty for stealing is cutting his hands off."
Looking east, Madoff's fortunes wouldn't be much brighter. In China, "anything is possible," said Gordon Chang, author of "The Coming Collapse of China" and a veteran watcher of the country's legal and political system.
"In China the death penalty is used for all sorts of crimes that we would consider to be minor. In the U.S. you get the death penalty only for murder; in China you can get the death penalty for stealing money ... or doing anything considered a threat to the state."
Questions of guilt or innocence there are entirely political, Chang said. Backroom bartering determines who gets incarcerated and who faces punishment, as lobbying and influence-peddling take the place of a functioning legal system.
"A number of Chinese business people have been sentenced to death for crimes that pale in comparison to what Madoff did," said Arch Puddington, director of research at Freedom House.
Puddington said political problems also beset the Russian legal system, Madoff's sentence would be a stark one if he fell out of favor with the ruling majority.
"They tend to send the most important prisoners to Siberia, to the far east in Russia, to prisons that are pretty awful," Puddington told FOXNews.com. "Prisons are rougher in Russia, you can imagine, than they are here."
Madoff told a U.S. district court Thursday that he was "deeply sorry" for defrauding thousands of investors of their life savings, but probably not as sorry as he might be if he'd spent his whole life in Japan, according to Miles Fletcher, a professor of Japanese history at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
"Sometimes in cases like this where there's a strong sense of a personal failure and betraying the group and the group's welfare, someone might commit suicide, having dishonored himself," Fletcher told FOXNews.com.
Madoff, who may never see the light of day again, should be counting his lucky stars.