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BBC drama 'McMafia' explores depths of global crime

[LONDON] New BBC drama "McMafia" will delve into the murky depths of global crime when it airs in January, exploring the ties between the corporate world and well-heeled mobsters.

"The gangsters have changed, they are not in the shadows anymore. They can be bankers, lawyers, government ministers," said Hossein Amini, co-creator of the series with director James Watkins.

Based in London but taking in cities including Moscow and Tel Aviv, "McMafia" follows the criminal classes who appear far from mobster stereotypes.

The luxurious lifestyles of the well-dressed polyglots are on show, complete with champagne and caviar.

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"The line between the underworld and the overworld does not exist any longer," Amini said at a London screening, noting that these days it was possible to sit next to someone at a restaurant with no idea of their criminal ties.

Watkins agreed. "The criminal is becoming corporate and the corporate is becoming criminal," he said.

The eight-part series centres around Alex Goldman, played by British actor James Norton ("War & Peace", "Happy Valley"), brought up in England by Russian exiles with mafia ties.

Despite a successful career in finance, Goldman is dragged into his family's past and finds himself caught in an international web involving corrupt politicians and intelligence agencies.

"The whole point of the show is that the corruption is global... It's by no means limited to Russia, it's very much in London as well," Norton said.

The drama is based on the best-selling novel of the same name by British journalist Misha Glenny.

He chose London as the novel's focal point in part due to the British capital's reputation among anti-corruption campaigners as a magnet for questionable wealth, much of which is invested in the luxury property market.

"I did keep coming back to London because of the fact that London welcomed a lot of money from all over the world without actually scrutinising entirely where it was coming from," Glenny explained.

"McMafia" was filmed in around a dozen countries and the cast includes Russian actor Aleksey Serebryakov ("The Method") and Faye Marsay, a British actress known for her role in "Game of Thrones".

"McMafia" will first be aired by the BBC on January 1, before being distributed by the Amazon Prime online platform a day later.

AFP