The international financial crisis was triggered by a group of AIG traders who ran up £310bn in toxic debts from a small office in Mayfair, it has been claimed.

Described as the 'ground zero' of the global economic meltdown, the dozen or so staff of the AIG Financial Products group operated out of fifth-floor offices at One Curzon Street in London.

They specialised in credit default swaps, a complex financial product which allows banks to pass on the risk of loans going sour. The business was overseen by Joseph Cassano, an American banker.

Cassano, who earned £203m during his eight years at AIG Financial Products, 'found a crack in the system that was unregulated' and made huge profits, ABC News in America reported.

When the US housing market collapsed, AIG’s heavy exposure to the credit default swaps hit the company, the world’s biggest insurer, hard and forced a £115bn bailout by Washington.

Daily Telegraph