What do you think is the most corrupt nation on earth: Nigeria? Venezuela? North Korea? Switzerland (come on, we’re all thinking it)?
Well according to author and journalist Roberto Saviano, who’s been living under police protection ever since his 2006 gangland expose Gomorrah took aim at the gritty Neapolitan underworld, we’re living in it.
That's right - speaking at the Hay Literary Festival under the watchful eye of his security detail this weekend, he warned the audience that financial institutions in the British Isles were already allowing ‘criminal capitalism’ to thrive through offshore holdings, and that if Brexit were to happen, it would put us at bigger risk from the Russian mob, cartels and all sorts of other nefarious crime rings.
“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 told the attendees.
“It’s not the bureaucracy, it’s not the police, it’s not the politics but what is corrupt is the financial capital. 90 per cent of the owners of capital in London have their headquarters offshore. Jersey and the Cayman’s are the access gates to criminal capital in Europe and the UK is the country that allows it. 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.
“Leaving the EU means allowing this to take place. It means allowing the Qatari societies, the Mexican cartels, the Russia Mafia to gain even more power and HSBC has paid £2 billion Euros 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 certainly one of the stronger Remain arguments you’re likely to hear ahead of the EU referendum - and if anyone knows how far reaching the tentacles of organised crime reach, it’s this chap.
While you may know it best as the hit indie film or more recent TV series, Saviano’s non-fiction novel Gomorrah was a huge success. Met with fury by underworld leaders in the South of Italy, they subsequently planned many death plots for the author, including one plan to destroy him and his police escort with a bomb.
Talking about the peculiarity of his life on the run, Saviano told the audience:
“I was 26 years old when I got myself into this situation and I could not imagine that it would end like this because many books have been written on the Mafia, but it was my book that made them so angry.
“I was telling real facts, I was naming names. My life is unique. I am followed by two bullet proofed cars and by more than five officers and that brings about a feeling of guilt sometimes because you exposed yourself too much, you were not cautious enough.”
Should Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage want to make themselves known as enemies to this unlikely anti-Brexit campaigner, they’ll have to get to the back of the queue.