Culture And Media

Italy: Murder of 'God's banker' echoes war on terror says author

Rome, 28 Sept. (AKI) - By Alison Dickens - The mysterious death of Italian banker Roberto Calvi at the height of the Cold War presents parallels with the modern day 'war on terror' the author of a new book on the Calvi case, Rome based journalist Philip Willan, told Adnkronos International (AKI).

He believes that Calvi, found hanged beneath a London bridge in 1982, was murdered, and argues that his killing "opens up a vast panorama on the true nature of recent history and how the Cold War was fought."

Willan argues that Calvi played a key role in an ‘unholy alliance’ against communism in Italy involving senior political and intelligence figures, as well as shady associates and highly questionable practices.

That web of intrigue, spawned by the Cold War, raised similar dilemmas to those posed by the current battle being fought by western nations against Islamist terrorism, Willan said.

"To what extent do you form alliances with warlords and suppress civil liberties to fight a 'common enemy?'" he asked.

The Cold War context to Calvi’s killing a quarter of a century ago involved "people in power in an emergency situation turning to organised crime and using very unusual and unscrupulous tactics to prevail, causing serious harm to Italian society in the process, " Willan stated.

Calvi was chairman of the Banco Ambrosiano – then Italy’s largest private bank which went bust soon after his death - and a member of the Italian secret P2 masonic lodge.

He was known as "God's banker" because of the illicit financial dealings that connected him to the Vatican's then-bank the Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR).

Calvi joined the P2 in 1975 to obtain vital political protection for the Banco Ambrosiano, Willan said.

The banker shifted money around the world to fund illegal arms purchases for anti-communist movements from South America to Poland, Willan argues in his book ‘The Last Supper: The Mafia, the Masons and the Killing of Roberto Calvi.'

In the process, Calvi became a ‘nerve centre’ for secret services and other forces combating Soviet influence in Italy, which had the largest communist party of any western nation.

Calvi was found hanged beneath Blackfriar's Bridge in the City of London on 18 June, 1982, his pockets weighed down with bricks and stones, and with over £7,000 in cash on him.

As Willan's book makes clear, the British police investigation was stunningly inept, initially dismissing Calvi as a vagrant because his expensive clothes were dirty and torn. A hasty coroner's inquest in the UK ruled that Calvi took his own life; a second inquiry there a year later failed to establish if it was murder or suicide.

Willan’s book lays out the evidence of real-life 'Da Vinci Code'-style intrigue linking the Vatican, organised crime, top politicians, spy networks and freemasonry in the Cold War era that cost Calvi his life. Calvi did not stumble into this web of intrigue, but willingly participated in it, Willan shows.

"I attempted to put Calvi’s death in the historical context in which it took place, " he told AKI.

Calvi pulled financial strings for elements in each of these forces. At the time of his death was blackmailing several individuals in a last-ditch attempt to save Banco Ambrosiano from bankruptcy and keep himself out of jail, Willan argues.

"Calvi was almost certainly trying to recoup money from other P2 members, such as its head Licio Gelli," Willan told AKI. Gelli is reportedly a suspect in the Calvi case, although this has not been confirmed or denied by the public prosecutor, Willan said.

Willan suggests Calvi’s death was more than a Mafia hit for failing to repay laundered drug money – the argument of Italian prosecutor Luca Tescaroli in the recently concluded 18-month trial of five people suspected of involvement in Calvi's killing.

One trial suspect was completely absolved and the other four were acquitted 'for insufficient or contradictory evidence'. The verdict at the trial – which Willan attended - backs up his thesis that Calvi did not commit suicide, Willan said.

Prosecutors are expected to appeal the trial verdict, reached in June.

"There is good reason to suspect the defendants but also a reasonable doubt. This is the conclusion I reach in my book," Willan told AKI.

The amount of time that has passed since Calvi’s death made it additionally hard to tell if witnesses were telling the truth or not, or "had good reason to obfuscate," he noted.

"A lot about the case remains mysterious to this day. But despite the verdict, we are not back at square one," he said.

The book draws on the mountain of trial evidence gathered by prosecutors over the past 25 years and interviews conducted by Willan over three years.

It concludes that although Mafia killers may well have strangled Calvi and hung his body from Blackfriars Bridge in the City of London, the decision to kill him probably came from elsewhere, starting with the freemasons, who had links to the Italian government of the day, the Vatican, US and British spies.

A recent mafia turncoat, Antonino Giuffre has given "very powerful evidence in open court" that the Banco Ambrosiano handled Mafia money, Willan said.

Giuffre's evidence was particularly convincing because members of his own Mafia family were allegedly involved in Calvi’s murder, he added.

Willan also devotes ample space to the late Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, former IOR head, who faced no charges in the recent Calvi murder trial.

The Vatican had a natural interest in the global war against communism. The IOR and the Banco Ambrosiano during the 1970s and early 1980s provided large sums of money to fight communism in Poland, for example.

Willan wrote an earlier book, ‘Puppet Masters’ about the Cold war activities of the P2 – or ‘Propaganda Due’ - whose members included top-ranking members of Italy’s espionage networks, police and even Italy's former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

"If the Ambrosiano affair had been clarified sooner, much more of Italy’s political world would have been destroyed," Willan told AKI.

"Tangentopoli ('Bribesville' in Italian) might have begun 10 years earlier, " Willan said.

He was referring to sweeping corruption probes by Milan magistrates in the early 1990s that led to the demise of many of the political parties that had ruled Italy in the post-war period. Several prominent political and industrial figures who were investigated committed suicide.

The P2 was banned in 1981. When Gelli in 1977 organised a visit to Italy by the head of the Argentine navy, Admiral Emilio Massera, a list of his meetings with Italian business leaders showed that over half were P2 members, Willan said.

A secret list of 900 P2 members, uncovered in 1981 at Gelli's home in Arezzo, central Italy, included dozens of generals, members of parliament and academics. Cabinet ministers, former prime ministers, intelligence chiefs, newspaper editors, TV executives, businessmen, bankers, and no less than 19 judges were also on the list.

When searching Gelli's villa, the police found a document called 'The Plan for Democratic Rebirth' which called for a consolidation of the media, suppression of trade unions, and the rewriting of the Italian Constitution.




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