Belfast Telegraph

When mafia expert Roberto Saviano tells us Britain is the most corrupt country in the world, it's time to start listening

By Joel Benjamin

Mafia expert Roberto Saviano was right this week when he said that it’s Britain, rather than Afghanistan, the South of Italy or Nigeria, which is the most corrupt country in the world.

The fact of the matter is that the British public think they are detached from the mafia problem and corruption, yet London is the drug money laundering capital of the world, and 90 per cent of drug cash ends up in the US and Europe via London.

In Saviano's native Italy, the Naples based Camorra have a warrant out for Roberto's life, after he exposed the inner workings of members of the mafia in his book Gomorrah. He is a man willing to risk his own life for truth – and we should listen.

In London, the financial mafia don't take out death warrants on truth tellers, but powerful financial firms will destroy the lives and reputations of whistleblowers without a moment’s hesitation, ensuring they never work in the financial services sector again.

According to a 2012 Newsnight report from the BBC's Joe Lynam, these City firms have a 100 per cent success rate.

It turns out Britain's perceptions of corruption, which are based on the NGO Transparency Internationals global corruption perceptions index only measure perceived corruption based upon the abuse of public office for private gain, i.e. the payment of bribes.

I grew up in New Zealand, a country ranked 4th top in TI's index, above Great Britain in 10th. Comparatively, Britain generally, and London specifically, feels more corrupt than New Zealand. Britain's institutionalised corruption is grounded in the so-called "old boys’ network" that runs the political establishment and controls the City of London.

John Key, a close political ally of David Cameron, and a former Executive at Merrill Lynch London, trading foreign exchange, is now Prime Minister running New Zealand, promising to turn NZ into the "Jersey of the South Pacific."

In other words, a tax haven, styled on Britain, and a node in the British-run network of global tax havens. While nepotism and subservience to finance capital is rife in Britain and its overseas dependencies, it is not illegal.

Many of the criminal corporate activities within the City of London which have dominated the headlines over the past decade are not classified as corruption by Transparency International.

Instead, the media and financial regulators refer to these institutionalised corporate crimes as "inappropriate conduct" or “mis-selling”.

As an alternative metric for financial corruption, the Financial Secrecy Index developed by the Tax Justice Network instead ranks countries  based on the number of tax havens and financial secrecy jurisdictions, with Britain and its spider web of crown dependencies and overseas territories including Jersey, Guernsey, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands finishing top of the list.

What we need now is firm action from David Cameron, who talks a big game when it comes to transparency and accountability, yet has singularly failed to deliver it.

Rather than cleaning up the UK’s global network of offshore secrecy jurisdictions and tax havens under British jurisdiction which allow criminal cash to flood into London property, instead  Cameron is planning to privatise the UK Land Registry which tracks the (often foreign) ownership of UK properties.

An investigative journalist hired by 38 degrees found the four companies (General Atlantic, Hellman and Friedman, OMERS and Advent International) in line to buy up the UK Land Registry are all based in or have close links to the offshore tax havens of Jersey, Cayman Islands or Delaware.

Before we make London an unliveable city – something it’s hurtling its way towards because of this culture of corruption and secrecy – we must hold the Prime Minister to account for the consequences of such decisions. He can talk about transparency until he’s blue in the face, but actions speak louder than words.

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