Journalist and world-renowned expert on the Italian mafia Roberto Saviano has called the UK “the most corrupt country in the world,” and said that Brexit may make the situation even more disastrous.
“If I asked you what is the most corrupt place on Earth, you might well tell me it’s Afghanistan, maybe Greece, Nigeria, the South of Italy, and I will tell you it’s the UK,” Saviano told the audience at Britain’s Hay Literary Festival.
“It’s not the bureaucracy, it’s not the police, it’s not the politics, but what is corrupt is the financial capital. Ninety percent of the owners of capital in London have their headquarters offshore,” he added.
The UK is Europe’s “criminal capital” when it comes to allowing corruption, the journalist thinks, with the trust funds in Jersey and British Overseas Territory the Cayman Islands being its “access gates.”
“That is why it is important, why it is so crucial for me to be here today and to talk to you because I want to tell you, this is about you, this is about your life, this is about your government,” the 36-year-old journalist told the audience.
Saviano has been living under police protection for over 10 years, after he revealed secrets of Italy’s Camorra mafia clan in his two exposés, Gomorrah and ZeroZeroZero.
Another major issue Saviano spoke out about was Brexit. In the event that the UK leaves the EU, he believes it would let the corruption continue: “Leaving the EU means allowing [corruption] to take place. It means allowing the Qatari societies, the Mexican cartels, the Russian mafia to gain even more power, and [London-based bank] HSBC has paid €2 billion in fines to the US government, because it confessed that it had laundered money coming from the cartels and the Iranian companies. We have proof, we have evidence.”
It’s not the first statement criticizing the UK this week at the Hay Festival. On Sunday, former CIA chief Michael Hayden said that the British demand less privacy and transparency from the intelligence services than US citizens.
“You as a population are far more tolerant of aggressive action on the part of your intelligence services than we are in the United States,” he said.
Privacy revelations along the lines of those from Edward Snowden have started a conversation which had “hit the beach” in the US, but it “has not hit the beach here in Great Britain,” Hayden added.
The statements at the festival come about two months after it was revealed that UK Prime Minister David Cameron benefited from an offshore fund set up by his later father, following the publication of the Panama Papers.
Cameron has also often come under fire for not dealing with offshore tax havens operating on UK overseas territories.
In March, Britain’s pro-Brexit justice minister, Dominic Raab, told the Guardian that the EU’s failure to move against corruption and “systematic fraud” is in “violation of international law.” The EU hasn’t adopted the UN convention against corruption, Raab said.
Cameron also faced embarrassment earlier in May when he was overheard referring to Nigeria and Afghanistan as “fantastically corrupt,” in comments he made to the Queen ahead of an international anti-corruption conference in London.