The youngest London Bridge jihadi who bragged to police about his dream of being a terrorist was allowed into the UK twice, despite being under constant surveillance in Italy.
Youssef Zaghba, 22, was waved into Britain and ignored by MI5 despite an attempt to join ISIS and repeated warnings by his own mother that he was dangerous.
Zaghba was even flagged on an international terror watchlist but was allowed through passport control at Stansted in around June last year – and again in January this year.
He first became known to the Italian authorities in March 2016 when he tried to fly from Bologna to Syria via Istanbul on a one-way ticket. He was arrested at the airport and he told police: ‘I’m going to be a terrorist’.
Jihadist propaganda including execution videos were discovered on his phone but a court decided there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him.
But Zaghba’s name was put on The Schengen Information System – a red flag warning system informing other European nations if criminals are trying to enter their country. Yet British border guards did not stop him entering the UK at least twice.
His own mother Valeria even asked police in his native Italy to keep him in custody and says she was shocked that MI5, MI6 and the police appeared to have no interest in watching him.
She said: ‘The Italian police were following him around everywhere, but in Britain, nothing, I cannot understand why’.
While living in the UK Zaghba was given a job at Catleaps Gymnastics in Dagenham, east London, without any background checks.
The 22-year-old is listed on the club’s website as a ‘development coach’.
Border staff in the UK would automatically have been alerted about the danger he posed when he presented his passport.
Security sources in Rome claim that when Zaghba arrived at Stansted this year the alert had popped up and British border officials checked his details – but the alert was missed or ignored.
An insider told The Sun: ‘Details of Zaghba’s detention in Bologna in March 2016 were inserted into the Schengen Information System.
‘This was consulted by British authorities when Zaghba landed in Stansted in January on a flight back to the UK from Bologna.’
As it emerged that there are more than 100 other Italians on the watchlist living in the UK, Zaghba’s mother also expressed disbelief that her son was not put under surveillance by British police.
Valeria Collina told the Daily Mail how her son was questioned by Italian police when he visited her in Bologna.
Speaking from her apartment on the outskirts of Bologna, the 68-year-old said: ‘The Italian police were following him around everywhere, but in Britain, nothing, I cannot understand why.
‘When he came to Italy to visit me the police would be waiting on the tarmac at the steps of the plane. They would talk to him and even escort him back to the house to see what he was up to. But Youssef never mentioned anything like that happening in England.’
Over the past decade, British officials have turned away 11,000 EU nationals.
Yet at the same time, 200,000 non-EU nationals have been refused entry to the UK. This is despite 75 per cent of the 330million visitors to the UK since 2006 being from within the EU.
Under UK law, a person from outside the EU can be stopped from entering the country on the grounds their presence here is ‘not conducive to the public good’. But Brussels rules state that EU citizens can be blocked only if they meet the higher threshold that they represent a ‘genuine, present and serious’ threat.
Concerns were also raised about flaws in the much-vaunted EU-wide database.
Zaghba was placed on the Second Generation Schengen Information System, known as SIS II, which has details of 855,000 wanted or missing people.The system issues alerts about the most dangerous fugitives as well as suspected jihadists returning from Syria and Iraq.
The Italian police acted after Zaghba told the authorities, ‘I’m going to be a terrorist,’ when he was reportedly stopped trying to travel to Syria in March 2016.
Jihadist propaganda was discovered on his phone but a court decided there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him.
When he arrived at Stansted Airport a month later, he was allowed in despite the database flagging him as a criminal. Zaghba, who lived in Ilford, East London, was also questioned at the airport in January 2017 – but was let in under EU freedom of movement rules.
Labour candidate Yvette Cooper, chairman of the Commons’ home affairs committee in the last Parliament, said: ‘There are serious questions for the Home Office.’
Italy’s anti-terror prosecutor Franco Roberti said the authorities sent an intelligence file to MI6 after Zaghba first travelled to the UK.