Britain is most corrupt country on Earth,

says Mafia expert Roberto Saviano.

He has spent more than a decade exposing the murderous criminal underworld of the Italian Mafia, but journalist Roberto Saviano believes that Britain is the most corrupt country in the world.

The author of international bestsellers Gomorra and ZeroZeroZero, has lived under police protection since publically denouncing members of the Camorra, a powerful Neopolitan organised crime syndicate, in 2006.

On Saturday he made a rare historic appearance at the Hay Literary Festival flanked by several security guards.

He warned the audience in Hay-on-Wye that financial institutions were allowing ‘criminal capitalism’ to thrive through offshore holdings. And he warned that a vote to leave the European Union would leave Britain even more exposed to the organised crime.

“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.

“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.”

Saviano first started writing about organised crime in Italy in the early 2000s following the death of his local priest who had written an essay criticising the dealings of the Camorra.

After publishing Gomorra, a non-fiction novel which named members of the clan and exposed its business connections and criminal activity, his life was threatened and a plot put in place to eliminate him and his police escort with a bomb.

The death threats led to a public outcry from fellow writers, including six nobel laureates including Desmond Tutu, Mikhail Gorbachev and Orphan Pamuk, who warned the Camorra were becoming a threat against security and public order.

Signatures were also collected on the web site of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica calling for the government to protect him.

Saviano said: “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.

“But the freedom of expression that you enjoy is not to be taken for granted and there is always somebody who fights for it and if it’s not you it’s somebody else in your place.

“I consider myself lucky that I was not killed. When you start telling these stories you know that your life is at stake, you know you might be killed, but what scares you the most is defamation.”

Journalist and author Ed Vulliamy, who chaired the session, added:  “We want the people to try and understand the phenomenon of organised crime in a different light which delegitimizes the system.

“The people about whom Roberto writes use and abuse this word honour which is of course a complete inversion and the reason why this is such a historic event is that every day Roberto lives, the fact that he is here, is a dishonour to them.”