‘I’m afraid of many things,’ the Italian journalist Roberto Saviano has said. ‘But dying isn’t one of them.’ As the author of the international bestseller Gomorrah, which exposed the workings of the Neapolitan crime syndicate the Camorra, Saviano faces the possibility of retribution every day. His book — which has sold 10 million copies around the world — earned Saviano a death sentence from the crime bosses he had exposed. For the past nine years, he has lived under constant armed guard, moving from one secret location to another. None of this has deterred him from waging war on organised crime with words as his only weapon. His reportage has helped secure life sentences for 16 mafia ringleaders.
Roberto Saviano made a rare appearance in the UK when he came to the Intelligence Squared stage. In conversation with BBC foreign correspondent Fergal Keane, Saviano talked about his life in hiding and his beginnings as a reporter on the streets of Naples. He revealed his latest work of investigative reporting, Zero Zero Zero, in which he delves into the sprawling network of the global cocaine trade. He traced how the $400 billion a year generated by drugs trafficking filters into the international banking system through money laundering from Wall Street to the City of London. The cocaine trade isn’t just a playground for criminals, Saviano argued. It is part of the structure of our global economy where some of the biggest players — the banks — have profited without facing a single criminal conviction.