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Authors: Philip Willan

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Shah of Iran goes into exile.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini establishes Islamic Republic of Iran.

Giorgio Ambrosoli, liquidator of Sindona’s Banca Privata Finanziaria, is shot dead in Milan. Anastasio Somoza
overthrown by Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Saddam Hussein becomes president of Iraq.

2 Aug.
Sindona disappears from New York, the beginning of his fake kidnap.

US embassy staff taken hostage in Iran.

27 Dec.
Soviet troops invade Afghanistan. CIA organizes clandestine support for Afghan resistance, initially providing arms of Eastern Bloc origin to conceal its hand.

4 July
Milan magistrates investigating irregularities in the running of the Banco Ambrosiano withdraw Calvi’s passport.

26 Sept.
Calvi’s passport returned to him.

Ronald Reagan elected president of the United States.

Reagan presidency inaugurated, American hostages released by Iran.

17 Mar.
Finance police raid Gelli’s office and home. P2 lists discovered. Calvi has membership no. 1624.

27 Mar.
Poland witnesses largest organized protest against a communist government since the Second World War.

30 Mar.
President Reagan shot by John Hinckley Jr.

29 Apr.
The Ambrosiano group announces purchase of a 40 per cent stake in the Rizzoli publishing company for 115 billion lire.

13 May
A Turkish gunman wounds Pope John Paul II.

20 May
Calvi arrested for illegal export of currency.

2 July
Calvi tells magistrates of his illegal funding of the Italian Socialist party.

3 July
The IOR’s chief accountant visits the Banca del Gottardo in Lugano and learns of the debts of Calvi’s offshore companies attributed to the Vatican.

8 July
Calvi attempts suicide in prison.

20 July
Calvi sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for currency violations.

22 July
Calvi released on bail.

Saddam Hussein invades Iran, beginning a bloody eight-year war.

17 Nov.
President Reagan signs National Security Directive 17, authorizing the provision of covert support to anti-Sandinista rebels.

12 Dec.
Martial law imposed in Poland. Up to 30 people killed and thousands arrested.

2 Apr.
Argentina invades the Falkland Islands.

27 Apr.
Roberto Rosone, Banco Ambrosiano’s deputy chairman, injured in pistol attack.

5 May
Ambrosiano shares floated on Milan stock exchange.

6 June
Israel invades Lebanon after assassination attempt on the Israeli ambassador to London.

7 June
President Reagan and Pope John Paul hold 50-minute meeting in the Vatican, alone and without interpreters.

11 June
Calvi flees Italy.

14 June
Argentine garrisons on the Falklands surrender.

18 June
Calvi found dead under Blackfriars Bridge in London.

23 June
Silvano Vittor gives himself up to Italian police at Tarvisio border crossing with Austria.

23 July
A first London inquest reaches a verdict of suicide.

30 July
Flavio Carboni arrested in Switzerland.

29 Mar.
Three high court judges vote unanimously to quash the suicide verdict and order a fresh inquest.

A two-week inquest concludes with a unanimous open verdict. The jury foreman says later that he and his colleagues would have opted for murder if they had known more of the background to the case.

A Milan civil court rules that Calvi was murdered and his life insurer must therefore pay his family the 4 billion lire owed on his policy.

16 Apr.
A Milan court hands out stiff sentences, at the end of a two-year trial, for the fraudulent bankruptcy of the Banco Ambrosiano.

Calvi’s remains exhumed from cemetery in Drezzo for a further autopsy.

New forensic report concludes Calvi was murdered.

Rome prosecutors re-open the case, accusing four suspects.

City of London police re-open their investigation.

6 Oct.
Five people go on trial in Rome for the murder of Roberto Calvi.

The Cast

Abbruciati, Danilo. Rome underworld boss shot dead on 27 April 1982 after a gun attack on the deputy chairman of the Banco Ambrosiano, Roberto Rosone. Reputedly involved in the kidnap business and linked to the Italian secret services.

Ambrosoli, Giorgio. Liquidator of Michele Sindona’s Banca Privata Italiana. Murdered in 1979.

Andreatta, Beniamino. Christian Democrat politician and treasury minister 1980–82.

Andreotti, Giulio. Seven times prime minister of Italy and leading member of the Christian Democrat party. Feared by Roberto Calvi.

Berlusconi, Silvio. P2 member, business partner of Flavio Carboni, and media magnate who would later found his own political party and become prime minister of Italy.

Berti, Alberto Jaimes. Venezuelan businessman who claims to have met Calvi in London in June 1982.

Botta, Giacomo. Senior official in the Banco Ambrosiano foreign department.

Brenneke, Richard. American who said he was a CIA agent and accused the agency of using the P2 lodge to sponsor terrorism and smuggle drugs.

Calò, Giuseppe, also known as ‘Pippo’. Cosa Nostra’s treasurer, ‘ambassador’ to Rome and defendant in the Calvi murder trial.

Calvi, Roberto. Chairman of Banco Ambrosiano from 1975 until his death in 1982; director general from 1971.

Carboni, Flavio. Sardinian property developer and business partner of future prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Accompanied Calvi to London in June 1982. Defendant in the Calvi murder trial.

Casaroli, Cardinal Agostino. Vatican secretary of state in 1982, equivalent to a secular prime minister.

Cavallo, Luigi. Journalist and cold war protagonist who was convicted of blackmailing Calvi.

Ciolini, Elio. Discredited supergrass who rendered misleading testimony to the investigation into the bomb at Bologna station in 1980 and implicated Calvi in the atrocity. He also provided the secret services and police with information on Calvi’s last journey.

Corona, Armando. Sardinian freemason elected Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Italy in March 1982.

Craxi, Bettino. Dynamic leader of the Italian Socialist party, later convicted of corruption.

D’Amato, Federico Umberto. Senior Italian policeman, P2 member, CIA asset and restaurant critic.

Di Carlo, Francesco. Woking-based
accused by associates of strangling Calvi, but not called as a defendant in the Calvi murder trial.

Diotallevi, Ernesto. Rome businessman with alleged ties to the city’s underworld and business links to Flavio Carboni. Defendant in the Calvi murder trial.

Franco, Monsignor Hilary. Vatican official enlisted by Flavio Carboni to mediate between Calvi and the Vatican bank (IOR).

Gelli, Licio. Venerable master of the secret P2 masonic lodge. Calvi’s political protector and was questioned over the murder.

Heer, Jørg. A credit manager at Rothschild Bank in Zurich, he claimed to have delivered a suitcase full of cash to Calvi’s killers on the instructions of P2.

Hnilica, Bishop Pavel. A Czechoslovak prelate who headed Pro Fratribus, a charitable organization dedicated to protecting the rights of persecuted Catholics in Eastern Europe. He paid large sums of money to purchase documents from Calvi’s briefcase on behalf of the Vatican.

Kleinszig sisters, Manuela and Michaela. Daughters of an Austrian timber merchant, they travelled to London with Calvi in June 1982. Manuela, Flavio Carboni’s mistress at the time, went on trial in 2005 for complicity in his murder.

Kunz, Hans Albert. Swiss oil trader who made many of the travel arrangements around Calvi’s last days.

Ledl, Leopold. Austrian businessman who claims to have commissioned the purchase of a huge quantity of counterfeit share certificates on behalf of the Vatican. Says Calvi visited him, seeking compromising material to use against the Vatican.

Marcinkus, Archbishop Paul Casimir. Lithuanian-American chairman of the Vatican bank in 1982.

Martelli, Claudio. Deputy leader of the Italian Socialist party, later convicted of pocketing a $7 million bribe from the Banco Ambrosiano on behalf of the party.

Mennini, Luigi. Managing director of the Vatican bank (IOR) in 1982; a layman and the bank’s top banking specialist.

Morris, Odette. Friend of Flavio Carboni who acted as his guide in London in June 1982. Morris denied allegations that she had lied in court to bolster his alibi.

Ortolani, Umberto. A banker and P2 member with strong ties to the Catholic church, reputedly the financial brains behind Licio Gelli’s secret lodge.

Paoli, Eligio. An informant to the finance police known as ‘Source Podgora’, who provided some of the earliest, neglected leads about Calvi’s last days.

Pazienza, Francesco. A consultant and lobbyist for Calvi, currently in prison for his role in the fraudulent collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano.

Pellicani, Emilio. Flavio Carboni’s secretary and one of the main sources of information about his boss’s activities.

Rizzoli, Angelo. An alleged P2 member and chairman of the Rizzoli publishing group, which bought the
Corriere della Sera
newspaper in 1974 and was financially backed by the Banco Ambrosiano.

Rosone, Roberto. Lifelong Banco Ambrosiano functionary who became deputy chairman in 1981.

Santovito, Giuseppe. P2 member and head of the military intelligence service, SISMI.

Sindona, Michele. Sicilian financier and P2 member who introduced Calvi to the delights of offshore banking. Committed suicide in an Italian prison after being convicted of ordering the murder of Giorgio Ambrosoli.

Vaccari, Sergio. A London-based cocaine-dealer suspected of helping to organize Calvi’s murder. Found stabbed to death at his home in September 1982.

Vitalone, Wilfredo. Rome lawyer acquitted of claiming that he could bribe magistrates for Calvi. In telephone contact with Flavio Carboni around the time of Calvi’s death.

Vittor, Silvano. Trieste-based Adriatic smuggler who accompanied Calvi to London in June 1982. Lover of Michaela Kleinszig and defendant at the Calvi murder trial in Rome.

White, John. City of London Police officer who oversaw the early stages of the investigation.


The murder of a banker is always likely to be motivated by money. In the case of Roberto Calvi it may have been the $1.3 billion that was missing from the accounts of his Banco Ambrosiano, Italy’s largest private bank, causing the bank’s collapse and, at the time, the biggest bankruptcy in European financial history. Calvi’s money was of a rather particular kind: the kind that translates directly into power, the power to influence people and shape the events of history, the kind of power that often places an individual above the law. The loss of that money and the desperate measures Calvi was driven to in his attempt to retrieve it almost certainly precipitated his death.

Calvi’s money was highly politicized because of the time and the place in which he did business: the financial capital of a country that straddled one of the fault lines of the cold war conflict. Italy was home to the largest Communist party in Western Europe and its capitalists felt as though they were under siege. Fear of punitive taxation or the expropriation of private property should the Communists win a general election spurred a massive capital flight among the rich. To bolster the ailing economy the government had made it illegal for people to send currency abroad but banks like the Banco Ambrosiano were nevertheless willing to assist, funnelling wealth via the Vatican bank towards the security of Switzerland or offshore finance centres in the Caribbean. It was inevitable that rich
individuals who saw their livelihoods threatened would want to use their money to combat the Red menace, and that bankers such as Calvi would be drawn into their struggle.

Those who ordered the murder of Calvi were undoubtedly men of power too. In many ways, they came close to achieving the perfect crime. Though it was hastily classified as suicide by the British authorities, Italians almost universally saw Calvi’s death as murder, and a murder laden with symbolic significances. Suspended by the neck from scaffolding under London’s Blackfriars Bridge and with his pockets stuffed with builder’s bricks, there was a series of elements in the scenography of his death to fire the imagination of amateur sleuths. Could the name of the bridge be a cryptic reference to freemasonry, of which Calvi was a member, or to the black-caped friars of the Dominican order, a way of evoking the Vatican, with which he had been doing business? The bricks in his pockets, too, recalled freemasonry, as did the tide that had washed over his feet, reminding fellow masons of the oath of loyalty and silence that Calvi had so conspicuously breached. In those years the bridge was painted in the pale blue and white of the Argentine flag – a reference perhaps to the recently fought Falklands war and to Argentina’s arms purchases, financed in part by the Banco Ambrosiano? For Calvi’s associates in the worlds of finance, politics and freemasonry the warning was all too eloquent. For the phlegmatic investigators of the City of London Police it was an evident case of self-suspension.

What made the Calvi case exceptional was the banker’s close links to the Vatican, which had earned for him the journalistic sobriquet of ‘God’s banker’. The violent manner of his death and the details of the Banco Ambrosiano’s financial collapse would embroil the Vatican in years of controversy. The institution dedicated to the dissemination of the moral message of Jesus Christ would find itself accused of complicity in fraud, arms dealing and the laundering of drug money on
behalf of the mafia. The Roman Catholic church, threatened and persecuted around the globe by atheistic communism, would find itself sucked into some of the most unscrupulous and unpalatable activities of the Cold War, ally and bedfellow of criminals and spies. The tangled relationship between Calvi and Archbishop Paul Casimir Marcinkus, the Lithuanian-American head of the Vatican bank, would baffle investigators and tarnish the pontificate of Pope John Paul II. A relationship of friendship and complicity between the two bankers would sour at the end, pitting the ambitious, introverted, workaholic Italian money-man against the ambitious, extroverted, sports-loving American in a trial of strength which would hasten the desperate Italian’s slide towards death. Calvi’s attempts to blackmail the Vatican are one of the most extraordinary aspects of this remarkable tale, momentarily lifting the brocaded drapes of secrecy that normally concealed the secret inner mechanisms of the West’s cold war operations.

BOOK: The Last Supper
12.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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