Britain is 'world's most corrupt country', says Mafia expert

Roberto Saviano lays blame at offshore-based finance in London and UK-dependent tax havens

Roberto Saviano
(Image credit: Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images)

Britain is the most corrupt country in the world, according to one of the world's foremost experts on the Mafia.

Speaking at the Hay Literary Festival, investigative journalist Roberto Saviano (pictured above), who has spent more than a decade under police protection after exposing the criminal dealings of the Italian Mafia in his book Gomorrah, pointed to the dominance of offshore-based finance in London and also the prevalence of tax havens that are officially under the UK's auspices.

"If I asked you what is the most corrupt place on Earth, you might tell me well it's Afghanistan, maybe Greece, Nigeria, the south of Italy, and I will tell you it's the UK," he said.

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"It's not the bureaucracy, it's not the police, it's not the politics. But what is corrupt is the financial capital. Ninety per cent of the owners of capital in London have their headquarters offshore. Jersey and the Caymans are the access gates to criminal capital in Europe and the UK is the country that allows it."

The UK cane tenth in Transparency International's latest corruption perceptions index and David Cameron has faced "growing calls for the UK to reform offshore tax havens operating on its own Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories", says The Independent.

But this month's anti-corruption summit, which was overshadowed by the Panama Papers scandal, failed to produce any action to directly tackle tax havens. Instead, there were pledges to address money laundering in the UK property market and to boost the ability of national tax authorities to clamp down on corruption by introducing public ownership registers.

British territories of the Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands, which was the haven most exposed in the Panama Papers leak, did not attend and have not signed up to any such initiative.

Saviano added that a vote to leave the EU would leave the UK even more exposed to organised crime and would result in "Qatari societies, the Mexican cartels and the Russian Mafia gaining even more power".

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