Charles Sabini was a British criminal of mixed Italian and English parentage who, as leader of the Sabinis and 'king of the racecourse gangs', dominated the London underworld and racecourses throughout the south of England for much of the early twentieth century.
He was born in Saffron Hill, an area then known as London's Little Italy and his Clerkenwell-based organization, although rivalled by the Birmingham Boys, the Cortese family, the Yiddishers and the White family, dominated the local underworld for nearly 20 years during the inter-war period. Sabini's organization, notorious for razor attacks, which had an estimated 300 members including imported Sicilian gunmen in addition to local criminals, was involved in criminal activities including extortion, theft and illegal gambling (specifically horse racing) as well as operating several nightclubs. The core of his income came from racecourse protection rackets, operated against bookmakers.
At its peak, Sabini had extensive police and political connections including judges, politicians and police officials. Sabini's power rested on an alliance of Italians and Jewish bookmakers. For this reason, the coming of the Second World War and the rise of Fascism in Italy threatened his powerbase, with antisemitism infecting London's Italian community. With the outbreak of war itself, Sabini was interned as an enemy alien, despite his mixed parentage and inability to speak Italian. Meanwhile, his son was killed in active service for Britain. After the war, his empire was taken over by the White family led by Alf White and subsequently by the organizations of Jack Spot and Billy Hill.
During the 1930s, Sabini was said to be permanently resident in a penthouse apartment in the Grand Hotel, Brighton. After the war, he worked as a bookmaker and was resident in Hove. He was immortalized as the gangster Colleoni in Graham Greene's Brighton Rock